Immigrants, their descendants and ethnic minorities continue to face widespread discrimination across the European Union, finds a survey conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).
A total of 25,500 randomly selected first- and second-generation immigrants and members of ethnic minorities were interviewed for what was the second the European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II).
The respondents were asked not only about their experiences of discrimination, harassment, police stops and rights awareness but also about their sense of belonging and trust in public institutions in their country of residence. The results of the union-wide survey were published on 6 December, 2017.
“Almost a decade ago we warned about the presence of large-scale ethnic discrimination and hatred. Today, these new results show that our laws and policies are inadequately protecting the people they are meant to serve,” says Michael O’Flaherty, the director of FRA.
FRA highlights in a press release that discrimination remains a union-wide problem in all areas of life – especially, in job-seeking – in spite of the introduction of anti-discrimination laws at the turn of the millennium. For many, it adds, discrimination is a recurring experience.
The failure to eradicate discrimination, intolerance and hatred, meanwhile, is threatening to marginalise and alienate members of minority groups who otherwise tend to be attached to their country of residence and have a higher level of trust in its institutions than the general population.
“With every act of discrimination and hate, we erode social cohesion and create inequalities that blight generations fuelling the alienation that may ultimately have devastating consequences,” says O’Flaherty.
The survey found that people of immigrant and ethnic minority background are more likely to experience discrimination in Finland than almost anywhere else in the European Union.
Discrimination against people of Sub-Saharan African descent is particularly common in Finland: almost a half (45%) of the respondents reported that they have experienced discrimination over the past year and well over a half (60%) that they have experienced discrimination over the past five years.
Their experiences were most commonly related to the use of public and private services, such as employment, health care and hospitality services.
The only member state to yield a higher 12-month rate of discrimination against people of Sub-Saharan African descent was Luxembourg (50%). High 12-month rates of discrimination were reported also by North African respondents in the Netherlands (49%) and Roma respondents in Greece (48%) and Portugal (47%).
“The results are a clear confirmation that there’s a lot of racism in Finland,” Kirsi Pimiä, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman of Finland, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday.
“The researchers said they were shocked by the high ranking of Finland. They found it difficult to believe that there can be so much racism in a welfare state such as Finland.”
A total of 500 people of immigrant and ethnic minority group backgrounds were interviewed for the survey in the capital region, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
FRA believes the survey results place greater emphasis on the need to introduce specific and more resolute measures to provide legal protection against discrimination, as well as effective sanctions for those guilty of discrimination.
The fact that most incidents of ethnic discrimination (88%), hate-motivated harassment (90%) and hate-motivated violence (72%) were not reported also indicates that member states must step up their efforts to reach out to victims and encourage them to report. Law enforcement and anti-discrimination officials, similarly, need new tools to respond to such reports effectively, according to FRA.
The willingness and ability of respondents to report discrimination, however, appears to vary substantially between member states.
For example, nearly a third (30%) of respondents of Sub-Saharan African descent in Finland said they reported or filed a complaint about the latest incident of discrimination; in Austria, Italy and Portugal, fewer than a tenth of respondents of similar background said they did so.
“This indicates that rights consciousness – including the knowledge and means to complain – varies not only between individual respondents and/or target groups. It also points to varying degrees of effectiveness of existing laws and policies that aim to counteract discrimination and ensure equality for all in the member states,” concludes FRA.
The average reporting rate across the union was 12 per cent.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva