Poland struggling to stamp out racism, report warns

15th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Racial discrimination and anti-Semitism remain a problem in Poland despite efforts to stamp them out, the Council of Europe's anti-racism agency warned Tuesday.

"Discriminatory attitudes persist in many fields, including employment, housing and law enforcement," the European Commission against Racism and Intolerence (ECRI) said in a broadly critical report.

Anti-Semitism remains a problem, the report said, and "a particularly worrying aspect is its tacit acceptance by an influential media group belonging to a Catholic organisation and sometimes even by mainstream political parties."

The agency noted with concern the continuing belief in a Jewish conspiracy, which it said was linked to the current difficult economic situation. Anti-Semitic publications are still sold openly in kiosks in Warsaw and other cities, the report found.

But the report acknowledged that "most people agree that today Poland has become again an important centre of Jewish culture to be enjoyed by its citizens, residents and visitors. ECRI considers this to be a positive development and encourages the authorities in their efforts in this direction."

Some football fans in Poland, which is a co-host of the European Championships in 2012 along with Ukraine, exhibit racist behaviour, while numerous websites and publications encouraged ethnic and religious hatred. "The activities of certain extreme right-wing organisations continue unabated. There have been instances of racist violencem," the ECRI said.

The ECRI said the situation for Poland's Roma community "still leaves a lot to be desired".

"The very low rate of attendance of compulsory-schooling facilities by Roma children is very disturbing," said the agency, which urged the seperate schooling of Roma children to be gradually abolished.

Furthermore, support for the Roma community is not carried out with equal enthusiasm across the country, and Poland "should have an independent specialised body for combatting racism and racial discrimination."

In its conclusions and recommendations, the agency said authorities should continue efforts to prosecute all racially motivated offences, including those committed on the Internet.

"The courts should recognise that public incitement to racial hatred may take different forms. Evidence that would warrant the disbanding of groups promoting racism should be actively collected," the report said.

In addition, the report said the role of the Catholic Church in the fight against racism needed to be questioned as it is a major opinion leader.

"A large-scale campaign for tolerance should be addressed to society at large," the agency said.

© 2010 AFP

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