9th Dec 2023

Austria and Germany deemed 'most racist' EU states

  • "There has been no progress when it comes to racist harassment or violence," says the Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency (Photo: Roderick Eime)
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People of African descent continue to face "shocking levels of racism and discrimination" throughout the EU, according to a new report.

The findings were based on a survey of 13 member states and published on Wednesday (25 October) by the Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

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"There has been no progress when it comes to racist harassment or violence," says FRA, when compared to their previous survey in 2016.

And it says some 47 percent have experienced discrimination on any ground in the five years before the survey and over a third one year before the survey.

The findings offer a bleak assessment of how people of colour are treated in the member states observed, whether that be in education, the job market, or in health.

Most discrimination happened when people were looking for work or for a home, with many over-qualified individuals ending up with menial labour jobs.

The results came after researchers queried some 6,800 people in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

Most people of sub-Saharan African origin in the EU live in these member states.

The worst offenders were Austria and Germany, with both registering the highest levels of discrimination at over 70 percent.

The two countries have also seen a steady rise of the far-right with Germany's anti-immigration Alternative für Deutschland becoming the third largest party, while Austria's Freedom party is slated to win ahead of next year's general election.

"It is shocking to see no improvement since our last survey in 2016. Instead, people of African descent face ever more discrimination just because of the colour of their skin," said Michael O'Flaherty, FRA director, in a press statement.

The findings come in light of wider European Union initiatives to tackle racism, including 23-year old anti-discrimination legislation.

But it is also the first report since the European Commission implemented its EU anti-racism plan spanning the years 2020 to 2025.

A European commission spokesperson said a first evaluation of the anti-racism action plan is planned around the end of the year, noting that so far 16 member states have either adopted a national action plan or are in the process of doing so.

And she said that there are currently eight open infringement procedures on implementing the framework decision against racism and xenophobia.

"Black people continue to be one of the most discriminated groups in EU," said Michaela Moua, the EU commission's anti-racism coordinator, on X, formerly known as Twitter.

And she said structural solutions are needed to tackle the issue. Her earlier comments also proposed a collection of disaggregated equality data.

So too has the FRA, which says the collection of disaggregated data by racial or ethnic origins is needed in order to capture experiences of discrimination.

Nourhene Mahmoudi, a policy advisor at the Brussels-based European Network Against Racism, says the report also paints a clear picture of persistent racial discrimination and racism.

"The lack of progress and the worsening of key-indicators compared to 2016 demand immediate attention and action from the EU and from the member states," she said.

It was crucial to highlight that structural racism within migration policies and law enforcement practices also needed to be confronted head-on, she added.

Similar conclusions were drawn from the FRA report, which found over half of those surveyed still perceive stops by the police as racial profiling.

The highest rates were in Germany (69%), Spain (66%) and Sweden (58%), and the lowest in Finland (34%), Poland (32%) and Luxembourg (22%).

This article was updated on 26 October, 2023 at 10.10am with comments from a European commission spokesperson


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