ECRI reports highlights Islamophobia in Europe
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Friday May 27 2016
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has released its2015 annual report for the period 1 January to 31 December and marking the main trends in the fields of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance among Member States of the Council of Europe.
The annual report highlights two main developments that have given the Council of Europe’s human rights monitoring body cause for concern: “the ongoing migration crisis and the Islamist terror attacks that were carried out in Paris in the months of January and November and in Copenhagen in February.”
In relation to the first development, the migration crisis, the report notes some of the policy and populist responses in Member States to the arrival of refugees and migrants to Europe noting some of the restrictive practices that have been adopted, anti-migrant public sentiments and expressions of a “welcome culture” in European countries. The note makes mention of the discriminatory statements by States of accepting Christian refugees but not Muslim ones stating: ” Such open discrimination on religious grounds contributed further to a growing climate of Islamophobia across the continent.”
The report also highlights the effects of populist anti-migrant movements which have “contributed to creating a situation in which a growing number of attacks against reception centres and other types of accommodation was carried out.”
The rights monitoring body argues “The overall situation highlights the need to combat racist violence and hate speech and implement effective integration strategies, as ECRI has always recommended. Moreover, the principle of fair distribution, for which ECRI has also advocated in the past, is a key element for the development of effective policies in this delicate area.”
In respect of the second development, terrorist incidents on the European mainland, the report notes the impact on Muslim minorities in Europe stating “This Islamophobic trend merged, especially during the second half of the year, with the growing anti-immigrant sentiments as a result of the ongoing influx of large numbers of migrants particularly from Muslim countries. The Islamist terror attacks in November in Paris, during which the Bataclan concert hall as well as several bars and restaurants and the national football stadium were targeted, added a further momentum to a merger of these two developments in populist rhetoric. Already in its 2014 Annual Report, ECRI pointed out that the growing trend of Islamophobia has the potential of counteracting the integration efforts made so far. In this regard, ECRI has also repeatedly emphasised the importance of its GPR [general policy recommendation] No. 8 on combating racism while fighting terrorism.”
The report notes the escalation in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate speech during 2015 and the impact of austerity measures which have not only aggravated causes of social tension but have also affected the financial support given by Member States to anti-racism bodies. The report states, “Budget cuts also affected institutions and measures put in place to prevent and combat racism and intolerance, including awareness-raising and outreach programmes, local community initiatives and support for civil society organisations engaged in working with vulnerable groups of concern to ECRI.”
The report further notes the ongoing problem of under-reporting of hate crime and the difficulties for specialised bodies working with affected victim groups to undertake vital outreach work to combat persistent under-reporting of hate crime.
On Islamophobia, the report reinforcesrecent remarks by the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muznieks, in his memorandum on rights compliance of the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill and the wider impact of counter-terrorism policy on British Muslims.
The report observes “Many Muslims feel unjustly under suspicion and complain about racial profiling in policing, counter-terrorism operations or border controls. Furthermore, already existing stigmatisation and discrimination of Muslims in various areas of social life, such as employment, housing and access to goods and services, are exacerbated. While Muslims in general suffer from this, those who choose to lead a life in accordance with strict religious rules, for example concerning their dress code or diet, are particularly affected. In order to address this problem, ECRI has continued in its 5th monitoring cycle to draw member States’ attention to its GPR No. 5 on combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims.”
The report further considers the situation of other minorities including Jews, Roma, Gypsy/Traveller communities and historical ethnic minorities and victims of homophobia and transphobia.