Thursday

23rd May 2019

Interview

EU rights chief warns against ethnic profiling

  • Fundamental rights need to be part of policy design on internal security, says Kjaerum (Photo: CharlsFred)

The outgoing head of the EU’s fundamental rights agency, Morten Kjaerum, has warned against the use ethnic profiling as authorities seek to tighten security in the wake of terror attacks in France and Denmark.

Kjaerum, who finishes his job as FRA chief next month, fears such profiling could find its way into EU policies that are designed to fish out those suspected of terrorist links.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“They feel a sense of unfairness and discrimination but maybe more importantly, they feel that those that are there to protect them, namely the police, are not,” he said.

The stigmatisation resulting from such profiling risks pushing already disenfranchised young people towards radicalisation, he warned.

Poverty in some member states is feeding racism and leading to the scapegoating of minority Muslim, Jewish and Roma groups, he says.

“I sense a growing anger. An anger that was not there in 2007-8 when I came in. And that anger we need to relate to,” he told this website.

A 2010 FRA survey found minorities are in some city neighbourhoods far more often likely to be stopped by police when compared to the predominately white residents.

Kjaerum cited the planned EU’s passenger name records (PNR) bill – under which air passenger personal details are handed to authorities – as likely to open the door to ethnic profiling.

National plans, backed by the European commission, to confiscate the travel documents of people leaving to fight in Iraq or Syria could have the same result. Policies, he says, need to be designed with fundamental rights from the outset.

The experience of Dimitri Bontinck, from Antwerp in northern Belgium, shows the complexity of the problem.

He rescued his radicalised son from the terror group in Islamic State in Syria and has since gone on to negotiate other hand-overs.

“Many (foreign fighters) are ready to come back and I know that very well because my last mission was in December,” he said.

“I’ve been five times with parents, five times, and negotiated in dialogue with Islamic State,” he added.

He said that often the children do not want to return because they fear western governments will “criminalise them and put them in jail. They are only ready to return if the ministers of justice give them political asylum.”

How to tackle the phenomenon of foreign fighters – EU citizens who choose to go and fight for IS – is one of the thorniest problems currently being dealt with by interior ministers.

In Belgium, the problem is particularly acute. It has the highest per capita rate of foreign fighters in the EU.

In Botinck’s case, his son Jeroen returned from Syria and was the key witness in a trial earlier this month which saw the head of a radical militant Islamic group - Sharia-4-Belgium - sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Europe shocked by Copenhagen terror attack

Similar to the Charlie Hebdo terror in Paris, freedom of expression was the first target in Copenhagen followed by an attack on a Jewish community.

Europol busts global cybercrime gang

A loose network of cyber criminals recruited from an online Russian forum managed to infect thousands of computers in an effort to steal online banking credentials. The gang has been dismantled, with some now on the run.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

EU justice 'barometer' hindered by data gaps

Some member states continue to impede the European Commission's annual attempt to define the state of Europe's justice system, by not providing data on their national situations.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us