Rights agency: Racist crime "serious social ill"

27th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

Human Rights agency: Racist crime "serious social ill" in EU

27 August 2007

Brussels/Vienna (dpa) - Racism and discrimination remain a serious problem across the European Union, with countermeasures handicapped by a lack of information and inadequate sanctions, the EU's rights agency said Monday.

"Racist violence and crime remains a serious social ill across the EU," the EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) said in a report presented to the European Parliament.

"Although good practices in response to the problem either continued or emerged in some member states in 2006 ... most member states still have insufficient data collection on racist violence and crime," the agency, which came into being this March, added.

The annual Report on Racism and Xenophobia, based on data drawn up by the FRA's forerunner, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, paints a bleak picture of the state of anti- discrimination campaigns across the 27-member union.

The EU's keystone piece of legislation in the field of racial discrimination is the Racial Equality Directive, adopted by the European Commission in June 2000 as a "framework for combating discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin."

Despite the fact that the Directive's provisions had been widely, if not universally, adopted by EU member states as of the end of 2006, serious questions remain about its implementation.

"In many countries there is no indication that a single sanction had been applied, or compensation awarded, in cases of ethnic discrimination during 2006," the FRA report said.

Those countries were the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain, it continued.

The problem is compounded by a lack of consensus on the definition and reporting of racist crime, with five member states not reporting any data on the issue, and only two - Britain and Finland - being classified as having "comprehensive" data.

"As a stark illustration of the difference in awareness and the variation in data collection policies, the UK collected more reports of racist crime in a 12-month period than the other 26 member states combined," the FRA report pointed out.

And even in states where a system has been put in place to combat discrimination, public awareness of its function varies widely, the agency argued.

"The very low number of recorded complaints in some member states, despite NGO reports and independent research surveys pointing towards the existence of ethnic discrimination ... could indicate a lack of awareness of the existence and functioning of these specialized bodies," the report said.

Nevertheless, the situation across Europe is slowly becoming clearer, with NGOs and pressure groups becoming increasingly active as collectors and collators of information, the FRA said.

"Where official state-produced criminal justice statistics are lacking, NGOs continue to fill a gap in many member states with respect to documenting and highlighting racist incidents," it said.

But with official information on and responses to the common problem of racism differing so widely across the EU, the agency is in no doubt as to the scale of the challenge the Union faces.

"Legal and political developments at EU level to address racist crime are indicative of increasing recognition of the problem of racism. Yet most member states still lack comprehensive official criminal justice data collection mechanisms," the report concluded.

DPA

Subject: German news

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