UN: Racism, xenophobia undiminished in 50 years

26th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Githu Muigai, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, says that the pressures engendered by globalisation were amplified in the economic crisis as tensions rose over job losses.

Geneva -- Racism and xenophobia are thriving as much as they were 50 years ago, fuelled by fears about growing migration and economic strife, the UN expert on racism said Friday at a conference on the scourge.

Githu Muigai, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, told AFP that the pressures engendered by globalisation were amplified in the economic crisis as tensions rose over job losses.

"There are serious problems of racial discrimination today, as there were half a century ago," Muigai said on the sidelines of the UN's controversial Durban Review Conference on racism in Geneva.

"The world has opened up, some people call it globalisation, and that has brought people of different races, ethnic or religious origin into contact who would otherwise never have met 50 years ago," he said.

Muigai, a Kenyan lawyer, said international institutions set up to tackle racism and discrimination during that period had failed to reduce the problem.

"For the reasons of migration, people moving to search for opportunities and so on, the problem has grown, not lessened at all."

Financial insecurity and job fears historically fuelled animosity towards foreign migrants, but that has grown in the current meltdown because it was affecting so many people, he said.

"If you are an illegal in the United States for example, you're probably costing the employer less and demanding less by way of social security benefits, insurance health care and so on, and there is a resentment that works around that," Muigai said.

Muigai, who took over the post last August, also pointed to anecdotal evidence of an increase in xenophobic and racist sentiment among the middle class in Europe.

"I suspect that we will see more of it, not less of it, until there is a stabilisation," he added.

Recent "xenophobia" against Mozambicans and Zimbabweans in South Africa was also driven by "frustration and insecurity" and fears about jobs that were unjustified, he added.

The UN conference, which ended on Friday, has adopted a declaration against racism, xenophobia and intolerance.

The 16-page text enumerates a huge range of issues that need to be tackled, including discrimination against migrants, access to justice, social services, and racism in sports.

AFP/Expatica

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