Strasbourg: ECRI: fourth round of country-by-country monitoring work – new reports on racism and discrimination in Albania, Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Switzerland, United Kingdom (september 2009-march 2010)
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released on 2nd March 2010 four new reports examining racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in Albania, Austra, Estonia and the United Kingdom, and on 15th September 2009 three new reports on Czech Republic, Greece and Switzerland.
ECRI recognises that positive developments have occurred in these Council of Europe member countries. However, while there have been improvements in certain areas, other issues continue to give rise to concern in those countries.
In Albania, the Criminal Code now provides that the racist motivation of a crime is an aggravating circumstance and prohibits racist or xenophobic statements on the web. A number of measures have been adopted to improve the situation of the Roma, including steps to address their housing and education conditions and to improve their access to health care. In 2008, the law was changed to facilitate the registration of all children, including those for whom the relevant deadline had passed.
At the same time, awareness of discrimination remains, on the whole, low. Many consider that this phenomenon does not exist in Albanian society because the law provides that all citizens are equal. Progress towards the adoption of comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation covering fields such as housing, health care and access to public services has been slow. There is no body in Albania that has express responsibility for combating racial discrimination. Roma and Egyptians continue to face serious social and economic difficulties, with higher unemployment rates than the rest of the population and extremely precarious living conditions. Although the State Committee for Minorities has gained experience, there are still issues with its effectiveness and the fact that not all minority groups are represented on it.
In Austria, anti-discrimination legislation has been strengthened thanks to the adoption of Equal Treatment Acts in each of the nine Länder. Some of these offer broader protection against discrimination than at federal level and provide access to newly created or reinforced specialised bodies. Measures have been adopted at local level to facilitate immigrants’ integration.
At the same time, racism in public discourse remains a worrying issue, in the absence of an adequate response by the authorities. Far-right political parties have openly exploited prejudice against minorities, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, Jews and Muslims and their statements have not been always condemned by mainstream political parties in a sufficiently strong manner. In addition, some media have contributed to creating an atmosphere of hostility against members of minority groups and asylum seekers. Moreover, although it is well-developed, Austrian legislation in the field of discrimination remains highly fragmented and complex; this undermines its effectiveness. The Commission for Equal Treatment and the Ombudspersons for Equal Treatment lack the structural independence required to command full public confidence.
In the Czech Republic, a new criminal code was adopted in 2008, containing more extensive provisions against racism. In recent years the Ombudsman has carried out detailed investigations into cases of possible discrimination against the Roma. Steps have been taken to adjust the education system so as better to meet the needs of socially disadvantaged children.
At the same time, however, there has been a disturbing intensification in the activities of extreme right-wing groups. Most victims of racially motivated offences are reported to be Roma. Little progress has been made towards improving the situation of the Roma, who face segregation in schools and housing and discrimination in employment. The issue of forced sterilisations of Roma women has not been adequately addressed yet.
In Estonia, as regards positive developments, the 2008 Equal Treatment Act provides a sound framework for combating racism and related forms of discrimination in number of areas, such as employment, education, housing and social protection. Measures have been taken regarding Holocaust education and remembrance and teachers have been provided with pedagogical tools in this respect.
At the same time, the number of stateless persons, while gradually decreasing, is still as high as 8% of the population. The naturalisation process is still hampered by too stringent language and other requirements. It is important that dialogue be maintained between the authorities and persons without citizenship on the measures to be taken. Contacts between the Russian-speaking minorities and Estonians are still too limited and the multicultural component of education should be developed further in order to bridge the gap between these communities.
The unemployment rate among minority groups remains twice as high as for Estonians. Roma are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, stereotypes and prejudice. In the field of education, Judges and prosecutors are not sufficiently familiar with the criminal and civil provisions relating to racism and related forms of discrimination. There is no independent body to investigate allegations of ill-treatment by the police. Sufficient resources would also be needed for the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commission.
In Greece, the legislative framework on non-discrimination has been consolidated with the adoption of the 2005 Equal Treatment Act and the 2008 amendment of the Criminal Code making the racist motivation of an offence an aggravating circumstance. In an encouraging development, there have been successful prosecution in recent years against antisemitic and anti-Roma publications.
However, on the whole, the legislation prohibiting incitement to racial hatred is still seldom applied and so far, few racial discrimination complaints have been filed due to insufficient legal assistance and information on available remedies. Roma continue to face problems in the fields of employment, housing and justice and the existing Integrated Action Plan should be better implemented. Issues relating to the freedom of association of persons belonging to some ethnic groups have not yet been solved. Significant improvements are called for in the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants.
In Switzerland, measures have been taken to foster the integration of immigrants in areas such as employment, housing and health. The federal bodies in charge of racism and migration have continued to raise awareness on racism and racial discrimination. Steps have been taken to combat right-wing extremism.
However, there has been a dangerous growth of racist political discourse against non-citizens, Muslims, Black people and other minorities. Legislation is insufficiently developed to deal with direct racial discrimination, which targets in particular Muslims and persons from the Balkans, Turkey and Africa. Travellers and Yenish communities with an itinerant life style are still faced with a shortage of stopping sites and prejudice leading to instances of discrimination. Legislation governing asylum seekers has been tightened and hostility towards them has increased.
In the United Kingdom, the legal framework for combating racism and discrimination has been strengthened. New criminal provisions on the prohibition of religious hatred have been enacted and police forces now apply a uniform definition of racist incidents. In addition, an Equality Bill has been introduced in Parliament with the aim of harmonising discrimination law and raising existing standards; it should provide similar protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief to that provided on the grounds of race.
The United Kingdom authorities have continued their extensive monitoring of the situation of minority ethnic groups in various policy areas in order to address the problems identified better. Considerable efforts have been made to ensure that racially motivated offences are comprehensively and consistently reported and recorded by the police and to streamline practices throughout the criminal justice system.
Some encouraging signs have been noted in terms of reducing inequalities experienced by minority ethnic groups. Educational attainment among Black and minority ethnic pupils has continued to improve and the employment gap between the total population and minority ethnic groups has narrowed.
At the same time, the rise in racist incidents in recent years is worrying. The impact of anti-terror legislation on minority groups also continues to cause concern, with measures such as stops and searches disproportionately affecting members of Black and other minority ethnic communities. As a result, members of these communities, especially Muslims, feel increasingly stigmatised.
Gypsies and Travellers are still most likely to encounter discrimination in all fields of daily life and they face some of the most severe levels of hostility and prejudice. The lack of adequate sites has also frequently been at the root of community tensions.
Asylum-seekers remain vulnerable to destitution, hastily reached decisions rejecting their claims and unnecessary detention. Together with Muslims, migrants, Gypsies and Travellers, they are regularly presented in a negative light both in political discourse and in the media, especially the tabloid press. The tone of public debate continues to include some elements of racist and xenophobic discourse.
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The reports are part of ECRI´s 4th monitoring round, which focuses on the implementation of its previous recommendations and the evaluation of policies and new developments since its last report. In two years time ECRI will carry out a follow up assesment.
In the framework of its country- by-country monitoring work, ECRI examines the situation concerning manifestations of racism and intolerance in each of the Council of Europe member States. ECRI’s findings, along with recommendations as to how each country might deal with the problems identified, are published in country reports. These reports are drawn up after a contact visit to the country in question and a confidential dialogue with the national authorities. The country-by-country monitoring deals with all member States on an equal footing and takes place in five-year cycles, covering nine/ten countries per year.
- Report on Albania
- Report on Austria
- Report on Czech Republic
- Report on Estonia
- Report on Greece
- Report on Switzerland
- Report on the United Kingdom
Fonte: ECRI website