EU summit hears of racial profiling against Roma
2018-05-01 14:41:50 -

By Chinedu Onyejelem 

Human rights NGOs and EU policymakers have warned against the use of ethnic profiling against Roma people by police throughout the union.


At the recent European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) conference on ‘Addressing anti-gypsyism in ethnic profiling practices’, several experts also called for a new start in interaction with Roma.


As highlighted by a 2016 European Union minorities and discrimination survey, 19 per cent of European Roma participants were stopped by the police in the previous year, while nearly half that number (42%) said their immigrant or ethnic background was the reason.


The public forum heard that the Roma – Europe’s largest minority group, counting more than 10 million people – has continued to be discriminated against and marginalised in several EU member states.


Ákos Topolánszky, president of the Permanent Study Group on the Inclusion of the Roma, said that ‘anti-gypsyism’ in ethnic profiling is widespread in Europe, but must be fought.


“Roma people are perceived differently because of their race and authentic culture, whether you are talking about decision-making processes, the use of language or access to public services,” Topolánszky said.


MEP Tomáš Zdechovský warned that inadequate integration was a major factor in the poverty which Roma experience.


“It is no wonder that their poor living conditions lead to a high crime rate and other adverse consequences,” he added.


Several other speakers blamed the rise in ethnic profiling on both migration fears and terrorism threats. Claire Fernandez of the European Network Against Racism (Enar) said she and her colleagues were aware of cases of ethnic profiling that are linked with counter-terrorism measures and the push to strengthen border controls due to migration.


“At EU level there are no safeguards, apart from general equality legislation, to prevent ethnic profiling or other discrimination in the process of law enforcement or border controls,” said Fernandez, adding that both Roma and travellers were among many groups affected by this recent development.

“It partly explains the low level of reporting of hate crime – when police are seen as part of the problem,” she added, stressing that the justice system has repeatedly failed to offer redress to Roma people who are victims of hate crime or discrimination.


Two types of ethnic profiling – discriminatory fining by the police for minor offences, and ID checks – were highlighted by Péter Szegi of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union as issues disproportionately affecting Roma people.


“This discriminatory singling out for police action becomes a tool to intimidate and segregate Roma communities,” he said.


The conference took place part of the third EU Roma Week, held by the EU institutions in Brussels.

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