10 January 2014

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has published a new report which examines the effectiveness of EU Member States’ responses to counter racism, discrimination, intolerance and extremism, and identifies the barriers which may be preventing the effective implementation of the actions taken. The report states that one of the main barriers to reporting racist incidents is that victims and witnesses often do not trust the police and are scared to be treated as perpetrators rather than victims.

FRA chose Greece and Hungary as two case studies where manifestations of discrimination and racism have increased. These are also the only countries in the EU who have parties with extremist rhetoric in their national parliament. Irregular migrants and refugees in Greece and Roma and Jews in Hungary are the main targets of the Golden Dawn and the Movement for a Better Hungary respectively.

FRA concludes that a high percentage of minorities in Greece and Hungary do not trust the police and that the success of the police in addressing the needs and rights of the victims of racist crimes is linked to how the different communities feel and are treated by the police. FRA states that due to the fact that proving hate crime is more complex, resource intensive and time consuming, police officers often focus on closing the case quickly rather than identifying the motivations.

In order to increase trust in the police among members of minority groups, the report urges Member States to give specific training to police officers, and try to ensure that the make-up of the police reflects as far as possible the cultural and ethnic mix of the communities the police is serving. As establishing trust in the police requires efforts over a long period of time, FRA suggests that Member States implement an independent reporting system to make sure victims can report incidents at any time and in a location other than a police station.

FRA also emphasises that Member States should ensure that the national legislation transposing the Council Framework Decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law is effective and provides protection to victims of racist crime.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 10 January 2014
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