Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment increased in 2015

Employment and Social Affairs
Among key trends in 2015 were growing anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia, denounces Council of Europe anti- racism body.

In its annual report published on Thursday, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) stressed  how public debate and policies in Europe in 2015 were influenced by the ongoing migration crisis and the terror attacks.

As an unprecedented number of migrants and asylum seekers are reaching Europe to flee war, persecution and poverty, many European countries are put to the test when it comes to human rights-oriented migration policies.

For the latest developments on migration in Europe, read “Most of People Would Welcome Refugees, says Global Survey” and  “Europe Is not in Good Shape to Fight against Migrants Smugglers.”

Composed of independent experts, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance is a human rights body of the Council of Europe (CoE) in charge of monitoring problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and racial discrimination, preparing reports and issuing recommendations to CoE Member States.

 Europe’s Public debate was openly xenophobic and islamophobic in 2015

If in many countries authorities and local volunteers dedicated their time and resources to assist the new comers, the report says, scepticism was voiced as to the local ability to cope with the increasing number of migrants and asylum-seekers. In the second half of 2015, the public debate was openly xenophobic and islamophobic and a number of attacks against reception centres occurred.

The reports also highlights how governments resorted to implementing restrictive border measures and deterring migrants and asylum seekers from staying on their territories.

What Is Left Of The Idea of Europe? Find it out here.

They also criminalised the provision of aid to irregular migrants, the report says, so to blur needlessly the legal boundaries between abetting human trafficking or migrants’ smuggling and providing humanitarian  assistance.

Countries need to combat racist violence and implement integration policies for migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees”, said the Chairperson of ECRI, Christian Ahlund, “The principle of fair distribution is a key element for the development of effective policies in this delicate area.”

 Islamophobia is fuelled by populist parties to incite prejudice and hatred against Muslims

Islamophobic sentiment, fuelled by the terror attacks in Paris in January and November, and in Copenhagen in February, were misused by populist political parties to incite prejudice and hatred against Muslims.

In some places we see the mainstream chasing after populists, and they are playing a dangerous game,” warned against this trend Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, “We must be unapologetic in our efforts to fight hate speech, promote tolerance and inclusion to help our societies stand together through these difficult times.

Read “The Mayor of London: Son of Migrants Who Won Islamophobia” for more information on London’s triumph over discrimination and Islamophobia.

As for other trends, anti-Semitism, after levels had already peaked in many countries in the preceding year, increased further in 2015. Continued discrimination against Black persons, Roma and Travellers, and LGBT persons was also noted by ECRI, although the situation of these groups and the success of policies aimed at assisting them varies considerably across the continent.

The situation of vulnerable groups in Europe was exacerbated by the austerity measures in many countries; while the effectiveness of institutions preventing and combating racism and intolerance were undermined by budget cuts, ECRI notes.

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