Introduction

Every day ethnic and religious minorities face racist crime and violence across the EU. They are not targeted randomly by perpetrators, but simply because of who they are or perceived as. Racist crimes must be recorded, reported, investigated, prosecuted and result in criminal sanctions.

What is at stake ?

Every day ethnic and religious minorities face racist crime and violence across the EU. They are not targeted randomly by perpetrators, but simply because of who they are or they seem to be. Often this reality is denied or underestimated.

According to a FRA survey, every fourth respondent from a minority group said that they had been a victim of crime at least once in the 12 months preceding the survey.

In addition, the specificity of racist violence is that it has a ripple effect : not only does the individual have to deal with the hurt and isolation but everyone who shares that person’s identity becomes a potential target. This community then has a shared fear that they are vulnerable to harassment and violence because of their identity. On a wider scale this serves to isolate and polarise groups.

Despite EU legislation on combating racist violence, there are still gaps in the implementation by Member States. In practice, the variation in legal provisions in Member States has a direct effect on how criminal law authorities deal with racist crimes. Narrow definitions often translate in under-recording of incidents. In addition, currently, only Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom collect data on hate crime.

As for racist discourses, we know they are not just words. They have devastating effects on the groups targeted and can very often lead to acts of violence. If such discourses are propagated by public figures, politicians or the media, their impact is all the more damaging. Indeed, politicians have a significant influence as opinion shapers. They are, however, not always aware of the fine line between freedom of expression and the use of language inciting violence, discrimination or hostility.

What are we doing about it ?

We are working for an improvement of legislative standards, both at EU and national levels, to deal with incitement to violence and hatred and to ensure proper investigation and prosecution of racist crimes.

We are offering expertise to EU States to broaden the scope of data collected on racist crime through the use of victimisation surveys on the nature and extent of unreported crimes, the experiences of crime victims with law enforcement and the reasons for non-reporting.

We contribute to rights awareness among victims of racist crime and support the engagement in prevention work with perpetrators.

We are empowering politicians to act responsibly by not inciting to discrimination, prejudice or hatred in their political work, to use respectful language when referring to minorities, and to respect the dignity and rights of all individuals during political debates. And we develop policies to ensure sanctions against politicians using racist discourses to stop the growing feeling of impunity and lack of democratic accountability.

We work to debunk myths on populations targeted by racist violence and discourses such as Roma and migrants.

With the support of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union, the Open Society Foundations, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Sigrid Rausing Trust