The European continent must combat racism. Without structural change to eradicate the root of all discrimination, more innocent lives will be lost to violence.
According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), racism and xenophobia are persistent problems in 27 countries, where many people die each year due to hate crimes.
In addition, according to a study conducted by the agency, there is a growing apathy towards such crimes, which is related to the rise of ultra-right movements. After carrying out extensive research, the FRA found that in Latvia, for example, 25% of the five thousand people interviewed admitted not wanting to work with someone from Africa.
Meanwhile, in Romania, 62% of those surveyed confirmed that hate crimes involving physical violence occur in the country.
“Structural racism and discrimination are deeply rooted in European society.”
A report by the agency notes that “legislation on the subject is often not applied correctly and there is very little progress in the implementation of national plans to confront the problem.”
The report also indicates that crimes are often not reported, mainly because victims believe that either the police will not do anything or that the victims will not get fair treatment.
Therefore, the crimes are not unaccounted for, the victims do not receive the help they need, the attackers go unpunished and the authorities do not know the true extent and complexity of the phenomenon.
In 2018, the FRA conducted a study among more than 5,800 people from 12 EU nations, which confirmed that a large number of people of African descent have been affected by harassment and violence, including at the hands of the police.
However, very few of them report the attacks against them to the authorities.
30% of those interviewed claimed to have experienced racially motivated harassment (offensive gestures and comments, threats) in the five years preceding the survey. Of them, only 14% reported what happened.
According to the FRA, 5% of the participants of the study had been victims of racist violence in the five-year period preceding the survey, and 64% of that amount did not go to the authorities.
34% of those people claimed that going to officers would not change anything and 28% said they did not trust the police, or even feared them.
Of the countries analysed, Finland, Ireland and Austria registered the highest number of violent acts.
After the murder of African-American George Floyd by the police, numerous voices rose up in Europe to denounce the horrendous crime and urged the old continent to take a self-critical look in the mirror of racism.
The movement that grew in the United States spread throughout the world, reaching the streets of various cities across Europe and its political institutions.
During one of its plenary sessions, members of the European Parliament criticised the brutality shown by US police and condemned all forms of racism and discrimination. Swedish politician Alice Kuhnke, member of the Greens, reiterated the need to send a strong show of disapproval to the United States, but commented that the EU also has a lot to do to combat this behaviour.
“This Parliament and the European Commission will define how the EU steps up to create a sustainable society that leaves no one behind. There can be no room for racism and discrimination,” she said.
For his part, French politician Younous Omarjee, from the United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), recalled that Europe’s past is marked by slavery, colonisation and the holocaust, calling for the necessary measures to remove all trace of these shameful periods in history.
President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen advocated fighting against both visible racism and forms of racism that are hidden in societal structures.
However, Spanish politician Miguel Urbán, a member of the GUE/NGL, asked for less hypocrisy and more action in order to identify and prosecute those guilty of racially motivated crimes.
He reminded those present that these kinds of aggressive acts are committed on a daily basis in many member states, especially towards migrants, who are often mistreated and exploited. (PL)
(Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay