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SWEDEN 2021

Immigrant communities continued to be among the hardest hit by Covid-19. Development projects in the north proceeded without the consent of affected Sami Indigenous communities. The government promised new legislation on legal gender recognition based on self-identification. There were concerns about proposals to increase police surveillance powers and expand the mandate of private security firms to use force. Refugees and migrants applying for family reunification faced new restrictions. Charges were brought against representatives of the oil company Lundin Energy in relation to war crimes in South Sudan.

Background

Gun violence, particularly involving young men, escalated in areas with high rates of crime and social exclusion. In September, women from affected communities organized a protest calling for more efforts to address social inequality and poverty.

Right to health

Public health studies showed that immigrants continued to suffer disproportionately high levels of critical illness and death as a result of Covid-19; the studies noted socioeconomic factors including crowded housing as well as lower vaccination rates.

Right to education

In November, the government-appointed Corona Commission found that the education system had become less equitable during the pandemic as distance learning approaches were less effective for students in a vulnerable situation.

Indigenous people’s rights

Projects to extract minerals, increase logging and develop wind power proceeded in the north despite, in many cases, having failed to obtain consent from the Sami Indigenous people of affected regions. Several projects risked devastating effects on reindeer-herding Sami communities.

In September, the government presented a legal proposal on the right to consultation for the Sami people on matters potentially affecting them. The proposal did not incorporate the principle of free, prior and informed consent and included exceptions to the obligation to consult.

LGBTI people’s rights

In November, the government presented a draft bill on legal recognition of gender identity based on self-identification. The bill, which separated the process of changing one’s legal gender from the medical procedure, had been revised following criticism from the Council on Legislation in 2018.

Mass surveillance

In November, the government announced proposals giving police powers to use camera surveillance, interception and house searches without suspicion of crime. Another proposal included provisions expanding the mandate of private security guards to use force in upholding law and order. There were concerns that this proposal lacked procedural safeguards for individuals and increased the risk of racial profiling.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

In July, changes to the Aliens Act entered into force, imposing new requirements that greatly restricted the ability of refugees and migrants to exercise family reunification rights – one of the few safe and legal pathways to protection in Sweden.

Also in July, authorities halted forcible returns to Afghanistan. In August, the government temporarily changed the rules to enable people in Afghanistan to be part of the resettlement quota; 1,311 Afghans came to Sweden as quota refugees in 2021.

Corporate accountability

In November, the Swedish Prosecutor brought formal charges against two representatives of the oil company Lundin Energy (formerly Lundin Oil AB) for complicity in war crimes in South Sudan. The trial had not started by the end of the year.

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