Xenophobia Peaks in Five European Nations | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.12.2001
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Xenophobia Peaks in Five European Nations

Instances of racial violence and xenophobia are on the rise in Europe. The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) came to this grave conclusion when it published its annual report for the year 2000.


Worrying news for foreigners in Europe

"The worrying thing is that not just racist violence, but also racial discrimination is growing rapidly all over Europe", said Beate Winkler, Director of the EUMC on Tuesday in the European Parliament in Brussels as the report was made public.

Increasing racial violence, anti-Semitism and discrimination of people based on their skin colour and religion – the annual report makes note of this and points a finger in particular towards five EU heavyweights: Germany, France, Great Britain, Sweden and Spain.

Germany, England, Spain – escalating racial violence

In Germany, racist motivated crimes have soared by 33 percent as compared to last year. The news is worse for Great Britain – xenophobic acts there have doubled.

But the EUMC report makes clear that racial discrimination is not confined to a handful of singled-out European countries.

One of the reasons - the at times completely differing interpretations in countries of what amounts to a racist motivated crime. In many European countries, incidents of xenophobic attacks are seldom handled by the police as clear-cut racist crimes. That’s why one can’t automatically conclude that more racism exists in countries, which book a comparatively high number of xenophobic crimes.

The country with the most shocking track record of racist violence according to the report is Spain, where unprecedented brutal attacks on foreigners took place last year. The EUMC report makes particular mention of the Spanish village of El Ejido, where Spanish villagers assaulted and hounded Moroccan emigrants through the streets for four days.

Not just violence, but discrimination

But blatant violence against people of foreign descent is only the most visible form of xenophobia. In several cases, xenophobia takes the form of subtle discrimination against foreigners in many areas of society. And most often this is evident in employment policies and at the work place.

"Despite being equally qualified, foreigners are not invited for job interviews. In many cases they earn less than their national counterparts and they often don’t have equal chances to work their way up the corporate ladder. That definitely amounts to enormous discrimination", says Beate Winkler.

So it comes as no surprise that in France there are twice as many unemployed foreigners as unemployed French nationals. In Germany, foreigners are five times as much affected by unemployment as Germans.

More racial violence to come?

But the EUMC fears a further terrifying prospect for the year 2001. Namely racist violence directed at Muslim communities after the September 11 terrorist attacks in America, believed to be perpetrated by Islamic extremists.

There has already been a marked increase in racist attacks on Muslims after September 11 –both verbal as well as physical.

The EUMC was established in 1997 by the European Union as an independent body to combat racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism throughout Europe. It works in close co-operation with the Council of Europe, the UN and other international organisations.

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