Roma activist and Young European of the Year Leif Hagert: Now is the time to challenge discrimination

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Finland’s Romany population got a rude reminder of the racism and ethnic profiling women from that group have to endure daily. You’d think that a country like Finland, which claims to uphold Nordic values, knows that ethnic profiling is not only illegal and insulting to the individual and group.

Migrant Tales has maintained for a long time that if the media were serious about the racist treatment that some people endure in this country, they have abundant evidence from the country’s 10,000-strong Romany minority.

While there is abundant evidence about racism against the Roma, the interesting question is why has it continued for so long, and why has the response of the authorities and politicians been so lukewarm?


Leif Hagert was named the Young European of the Year in May. Hagert, who has been outspoken on Roma rights in Finland, states that the Roma made history on Saturday when they demonstrated against ethnic profiling by security guards at markets. The name of the demonstration was “The Right to Breathe.” The Roma started to speak out against discrimination in the 1970s.

Hagert told Migrant Tales by phone that the time to react to discrimination in Finland is now.

“Discrimination against the Roma must be addressed by others apart from the Roma. Together, we must break the current culture of allowing [people and authorities] to treat the Roma as they please,” said Hagert. “Structural racism requires the intervention of decision-makers. Words alone are not enough. Action is needed.”

True, Hagert. Our first and foremost response to discrimination and racism is a reaction.

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