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25th Feb 2024

Amnesty: EU states guilty of racism, homophobia

  • Europe's unwanted: Roma people face harsh treatment in several EU countries (Photo: Boryana Katsarova/cosmos/Agentur Focus)

Several EU countries abuse the rights of migrants and ethnic minorities, while others are not doing enough to combat homophobia, Amnesty International has said.

The British-based NGO named 24 EU states in its annual report on rights abusers out on Thursday (23 May).

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Rough treatment of refugees from Africa and Asia, harsh enforcement of counter-terrorism laws against Muslims and naked racism against Roma people emerged as systematic problems in Europe.

Despite previous promises to the European Commission, France in the first quarter of last year evicted 9,040 Roma people, with local authorities in many cases "flouting" international safeguards against the practice.

French police ignored new rules against ethnic profiling on ID checks.

The names of men who died in French police custody in cases which pre-date 2012 also tell a tale of violence against people of African, Asian or Middle Eastern origin: Abou Bakari Tandia; Ali Ziri; Mahamadou Marega; Mohamed Boukrourou; Abdelhakim Ajimi; and Lamine Dieng.

Germany was taken to task for refusing to grant refugee rights for 195 people from Tunisia and 105 people from Iraq.

It also kept up its use of "diplomatic assurances" - accepting promises of good behaviour from countries which torture prisoners - as a basis to repatriate asylum seekers.

Italy continued to stuff Roma into ethnically segregated camps and to kick them out of their homes onto the street.

In the town of Pescara, following the murder of an Italian man by a man of "reportedly" Romani origin, anti-Roma unrest made "Romani families … afraid to go out and take children to school."

Conditions in refugee camps "fell well below international standards."

In several cases "migrant workers were … exploited and vulnerable to abuses, while their access to justice remained inadequate."

Spain booted out 70 migrants from the island of Isla de Tierra to Morocco without giving them access to asylum procedures.

Another Moroccan citizen, Adnam el Hadj, was snatched off the street by Madrid police and allegedly beaten by five officers who taunted him with "racist insults."

Italy, Germany and the UK faced criticism over their use of counter-terrorist laws to detain or extradite mostly Muslim suspects.

Similar issues came up time and again in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia (to join the EU in July), Cyprus, the Czech republic, Denmark, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden.

In Estonia and Latvia, Amnesty voiced concern over the rights of 400,000 Russophone people who cannot get citizenship and whose "stateless" existence aggravates their poverty and isolation.

Complaints over the handling of homophobic incidents cropped up in Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Lithuania and Slovakia.

But Greece and Hungary caused the most worry.

Amnesty noted that the far-right Golden Dawn party won 18 seats in the Greek parliament amid a spike in racist attitudes and a massive economic slump.

It said a new Greek police "crackdown" on migrants "raised concerns about discrimination against people because of their perceived ethnicity and that it would fuel xenophobia."

It dubbed conditions in a migrant detention centre in Elliniko as "inhuman and degrading."

It said the new wall on the Greek-Turkish border "would prevent people seeking international protection from reaching safety and … would lead them to attempt unsafe crossings."

It also noted 87 violent attacks against people from ethnic minorities "connected with extremist right-wing groups that acted in an organised and planned manner."

In Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Hungary, far-right militias continued a campaign of intimidation against Roma people.

In one case on 5 August in the village of Devescer, vigilantes stoned Roma houses while police looked on.

On 18 August in the village of Cegled "people mostly dressed in black uniforms gathered in small groups in Romani neighbourhoods, chanted anti-Roma slogans and made death threats" while police did nothing.

The rights of asylum seekers were violated to such an extent that Amnesty criticised Germany for sending migrants back to Hungary under EU rules on handling cases based on people's point of entry.

Meanwhile, Orban's political meddling with the judiciary and the free press - the basis of an ongoing dispute between Budapest and the European Commission - did not escape the NGO's notice.

"Critics warned that media legislation continued to expose the media to political control," Amnesty said.

“Last year the EU won the Nobel peace prize - a powerful reminder about its founding principles, which include human rights protection. Why has the EU’s resolve to tackle the serious human rights violations within the European Union remained so disturbingly weak?” its Brussels bureau chief, Nicolas Beger, added in a statement.

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