Johanna Ingemarsson, lawyer at Malmö mot Diskriminering and the passenger’s representative says:
Experiences of ethnic profiling by the police, customs and guards is, unfortunately, common in Sweden and something we get a lot of questions about. In this case, it is clear that the customs officials exceeded their authority and exposed an individual to a breach of privacy.
The passenger, who was on his way to Luleå, was the only non-white passenger on the train carriage. After being selected by the officials he had to get off the train and accompany them to the Customs office at the train station, where he had to undress completely for a so-called superficial body inspection. No items were found and the customs officials released the man, whose train by then had already left. The Chancellor of Justice states that the customs officials had no grounds to stop the passenger and also no grounds to carry out the body inspection. The passenger had a train ticket which showed that he had traveled from Ystad to Malmö on the morning in question. The Swedish Customs could not present any documentation as to why they had reason to believe that the passenger was entering from abroad. The Chancellor of Justice thus states that the Swedish Customs’ implementation of control and body inspection constituted a violation of the passenger and that the authority must pay damages of SEK 10,000 to him.
Although it is difficult to prove that discrimination has taken place in an individual case, it is important that similar incidents continue to be examined. A proper review of both the police's and customs' practices in situations such as this one is neeeded, says Johanna Ingemarsson.
Customs officials cannot randomly select passengers, but must do so selectively based on, for example, observations and risk profiles. There must be "reason to assume" that there is an ongoing violation of the law. However, this is a very low requirement. From the legislative history it appears that the customs officer's own selection “based on experience and intuition" can be sufficient.
A prerequisite for a body inspection is that there must be reason to assume that the person is carrying goods that can be confiscated due to, for example, crimes under the Penal Law on Narcotics. It is also required that the person is encountered upon entry into the country. In this case, the passenger had not entered into the country and thus the Swedish Customs had no grounds to make their intervention.
Malmö mot Diskriminering, MmD, is an anti-discrimination office located in the south of Sweden. MmD offers legal advice and support free of charge to individuals who have been subjected to discrimination. MmD provides consulting services to companies and organizations who want to take active measures to prevent discrimination and to increase inclusion and diversity.