|Immigrants outraged over Sweden’s racial profiling
An open letter to Sweden's justice minister, accusing authorities of using racial profiling in their hunt for illegal immigrants, stirred heated debate after going viral on social media websites.
In a letter published in daily Dagens Nyheter, author Jonas Hassen Khemiri, whose father is of Tunisian origin, asked Beatrice Ask to “change skins’’' with him for a day, AFP reports.
The letter came days after passengers in Stockholm's subway system claimed they were targeted in ID checks because of the color of their skin, as Swedish police launched a crackdown on illegal immigration.
“You borrow my skin to understand that when you ... see police officers standing there, with the law on their side, with the right to approach you and ask you to prove your innocence, that brings back memories,’’ Khemiri wrote Wednesday in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's paper of record.
The story spread quickly, garnering more than 139,000 shares on Facebook and Twitter less than two days after being published. By comparison, the newspaper said last year's most popular story was shared 27,000 times.
“It's one of the most widely distributed stories in Sweden. Every Swedish Twitter user has seen it at least once,’’ said digital strategist Hampus Brynolf.
The so-called REVA project, a Swedish acronym for Legal and Effective Enforcement Work, was piloted in the immigrant-heavy region of southern Sweden in 2011, leading to a 25 percent jump in the number of deportations being made.
“Together we must fight against discrimination!’’ Tequilazo Poulone wrote on a Facebook page protesting the Stockholm subway clampdown.
While Swedish police are unable to ask for documentation based on a person's language or appearance, they can do so when checking passengers' tickets on public transport.
“Appearance alone is absolutely not a reason to question a person,'' Peter Nilsson, head of Stockholm county's border police, told AFP.
The number of illegal immigrants being deported rose in the Stockholm area last year to 2,150 from 1,800 the year before, he said.
“You have to find those who don't follow court orders and send them away. Then you have to find methods,'' Justice Minister Ask told Dagens Nyheter.
Sweden's Ministry of Health and Social Affairs estimated the number of people staying in the country illegally to be between 10,000 and 50,000 in 2010.