Thursday

21st Nov 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 20 year's of archives. 30-day 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.

Feature

Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

"If evil is not defeated, it tends to expand", Natalia Magnitskaya, the widow of a Russian anti-corruption activist, has said, as EU diplomats discuss human rights sanctions 10 years after his death.

Commission defends Breton's Atos over police data

The European Commission defended Atos for hosting EU police data, despite its own public guidelines that state operational and technical copies should not be entrusted to third parties. Atos former CEO Thierry Breton is set to become a European commissioner.

Exclusive

Breton's firm hosted unlawful copy of EU police data

France's Thierry Breton is set to become the next European Commissioner for industrial policy. While he was CEO of IT giant Atos, the firm hosted unlawful partial copies of EU police data on behalf of the United Kingdom.

News in Brief

  1. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  2. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  3. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  4. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  5. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  6. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  7. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'
  8. Luxembourg: EU ought to recognise Palestine

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  2. New EU financial instruments needed
  3. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  4. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  5. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  6. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  7. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  8. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us