European countries should lift the taboo on Afrophobia and start addressing this phenomenon
“Racism and racial discrimination against people of African descent remain a widespread yet unacknowledged problem in Europe. It is time to recognise it and take measures to combat Afrophobia more effectively”, said today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, releasing a report on the topic ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The report is based on the discussions that the Commissioner held on 24 November 2020 with human rights defenders working on combating Afrophobia. It highlights that people of African descent continue to be exposed to particularly grave forms of racism and racial discrimination, including racial stereotyping, racist violence, racial profiling in policing and criminal justice, and practices which perpetuate social and economic inequalities.
This situation is compounded by the prevailing denial of the problem and a lack of public debate on Afrophobia in Europe. Cases and patterns of human rights violations affecting people of African descent are not given adequate consideration, even when they are reliably attested.
The report also points to the limited research and equality data, the insufficient efforts to address the legacy of colonialism and the slave trade, and the lack of educational and awareness-raising efforts that contribute to the invisibility of the problem.
The Commissioner underlines the important work carried out by human rights defenders of African descent and NGOs working on combating Afrophobia. She regrets the threats to their lives and safety and the various forms of pressure they are subjected to, such as harassment and attacks in the media online and offline, as well as surveillance and censorship.
Human rights activists of African descent are also regularly sanctioned for occupying the public space, for example in conducting demonstrations. They face a higher risk of being profiled by automated tools and there appears to be inadequate police protection and a lack of prosecution for attacks against human rights defenders, often carried out by right-wing extremist groups.
“There is a wealth of international standards and guidelines underlying states’ obligations to combat racism and racial discrimination, paying particular attention to persons of African descent. Member states should implement them as a matter of urgency to reverse the situation”, said the Commissioner.
She recommends making the fight against racism and racial discrimination a top priority and showing a clear commitment to addressing the legacy of colonialism and the slave trade. “There is a need to overcome the resistance to the acknowledgment of responsibility for these violations”, says the Commissioner. She also stresses the need to reflect historical slavery and the colonial past, as well as their present-day ramifications, in school curricula.
The Commissioner also draws attention to the importance of taking steps to stamp out racial profiling and impunity for racist crimes committed by law enforcement agents; taking action against all forms of incitement to hatred against people of African descent and enhancing protection against hate crimes; strengthening measures to combat discrimination in access to education, employment, housing and health care, and ensuring that artificial intelligence systems do not discriminate.
Lastly, the Commissioner stresses member states’ obligation to provide protection and support to human rights defenders working to combat Afrophobia, facilitating a safe and free environment for them to carry out their work without unnecessary or disproportionate legal, political or administrative obstacles. They must be given a voice in national policy and should have more opportunities for dialogue at regional level. “It is time that European countries face the roots and present forms of racism and discrimination and start building more inclusive societies”, concluded the Commissioner.
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