Xenophobia, radicalism and hate crime in Europe 2015
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European Centre for Tolerance
European Centre for Democracy Development
Institute for National Policy and Ethnic Relations Studie
Editor in Chief and Project Head:
Dr. Valery Engel, Chairman of the Expert Council of the European Centre for Tolerance
Dr. Valery Engel (general analytics), Dr. Anna Castriota (Italy), Dr. Ildik? Barna (Hungary), Bulcsu Hunyadi (Hungary), Dr. Vanja Ljujic (Germany, Netherlands), Tika Pranvera (Greece), Katarzyna du Val (Poland), Dr. Semen Charny (Russia), SO?S Eszter Petronella (France), Ruslan Bortnik (Ukraine), Dr. Jana Salmina (Ukraine), Alex Carter (UK)
2015 was a year characterised by an unprecedented migrant crisis, escalated terrorist activity, and increased influence of radical political parties. Growing xenophobic tensions were accompanied by the rise of populist parties on the one hand and the radicalisation of Muslim youths on the other, which played a significant role in the attitude and treatment of refugees and immigrants this year. These trends have been observed against the background of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic sentiments, which have already been high for several years, as well as institutionalised racism in public and law enforcement bodies. Given these observations, it can be said that the European society is not only in the midst of racial and religious stratification, but also faces serious changes related to the transformation of identity and the growing civilizational conflicts.
The conducted study aimed to analyse the most prominent manifestations of hate in European countries in 2015 and to identify factors that affect the demand for radicalism in society. The study also focused on the preparedness and responses of governments to modern challenges. Research was conducted in 8 EU member states (France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom), as well as Russia and Ukraine, as countries who play a significant role in political and economic processes in Europe.
The study involved researchers from various universities and research centres across Europe: Department of History at Northampton University, UK; Teesside University, Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies, UK; Department Chair of Social Research Methodology at E?tv?s Lor?nd University (ELTE), Faculty of Social Science; Political Capital Institute in Budapest; Pantheon University of Athens; Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement; Jagiellonian University, Dept. of History, Krakow; Russian Institute of the National Policy and Inter-Ethnic Relations Studies, Moscow; Ukrainian Institute of the Political Analysis and Management; Human Rights Centre “Religion and the Law”, Kiev.
Analysis was conducted in the following areas: legislation affecting minorities, law enforcement practices, treatment of human rights activists, hate crime statistics, xenophobic sentiments in the population, and government responses to modern challenges, such as the refugee crisis and the threat of radical Islamism.These observations form a basis for recommendations, which outline the steps to improve the situation regarding minority rights and de-escalating public tensions.
This report has been produced with the support of the European Centre of Tolerance.
1.1. Discriminatory trends in european legislation
One of the most significant elements contributing to discriminatory trends in European legislation is the non-recognition of racial or religious hatred as an aggravating circumstance in a crime. Of the countries under review in 2015, four had lacked such a provision – France, Greece, Hungary, and Poland. Until recently, the German legal system had a similar deficit, where Article 46 of the Criminal Code left it to the discretion of the court.1
A no less important discriminatory element in European legislation is the unequal legal treatment of specific religions. For example, Greek legislation allows for discrimination of non-traditional religions with Article 13(2) of the Constitution, which states that “all known religions shall be free and their rites of worship shall be performed unhindered and under the protection of the law.” Paragraph 3 of the same article has the same qualifier, which deals with “insulting Christianity or any other known religion.”
It is worth noting that Greece legally recognises only three religious organisations: The Greek Orthodox Church, Thracian Muslims, and the Jewish community. Other organisations that consider themselves religious are excluded from this status and thus cannot own property as legal religious bodies.4
Hungarian Law “On the right to freedom of conscience and faith, religion, church, and religious organisations” (2011) also created problems for new religious organisations that have not been present in the country for more than 20 years and who have less than 1000 followers permanently residing in Hungary.
German legislation also provides for inequality of some religious organisations, dividing them into “corporate bodies under public law” and others. Corporate bodies under public law have the right to collect their part of the Church Tax, which is derived from the taxable income by the regional financial body (Finanzamt) and given to the community. Other religious organisations are deprived of this status, which presumes that a religious community is guaranteed long-term existence by its statute and the number of followers. Currently, such status is applied to various Christian denominations, including Orthodox Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as the Jewish community, and the Union of Religious Communities that consists of several smaller communities and sects (predominantly Christian). Meanwhile, the Muslim community in Germany, which has more than 4 million members (almost 5 % of the population), does not fall under the status of a corporate body under public law, despite meeting all necessary conditions.
Similar issues can be observed in Italy. In this country religious communities that have not entered in a concordat (e.g. Muslims) with the government encounter various problems.
Ukraine amended its Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organisations” in 2012, making registration of religious organisations more difficult and providing various government bodies with the authority to monitor and control their activities (including Prosecution, Ministry of Culture, and other local and central bodies). 2012 amendments also introduced a procedure for conducting peaceful public religious events, which contradicts Article 39 of the Ukrainian Constitution.
It is worth mentioning the Law “On protecting religious feelings,” adopted by Russia in 2013.5
However, the most significant problems in European legislation are laws regulating inter-ethnic relations.
There are several countries in Europe that do not recognise the presence of ethnic minorities as such, which deprives them of corresponding rights that may differ from the regular human rights. Ethnicity and self-determination of minorities are excluded from the legal and political vocabulary in countries like France and Greece (excluding Western Thrace). The argument for this practice is that granting “special rights” to certain national minorities would escalate racism and inequality on ethnic grounds. Thus, France and Greece have been reluctant to join the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Meanwhile, de facto national minorities in France and Greece constitute for at least 10 % of their populations. Their presence is officially unrecognised, and therefore, their rights are not protected.
This problem exists in various shapes and forms in other monitored countries, except Russia, which has more than one hundred different nationalities. However, Russia adopted a completely different nation-state model, which it inherited from the Soviet Union as a state founded on an idea, rather than traditions of the titular nation.
Non-indigenous peoples – particularly immigrants – are affected by this the most. However, there also millions of citizens in Germany, for example, who were born in these countries, but not recognised as national minorities due to not identifying themselves as any of the 4 accepted ethnic groups. These are Turks, former Yugoslavians and people of Asian and African origins, who are excluded from the Framework Convention.
These factors indicate that the rights of most national minorities in Europe are not observed on a legislative level.
1.2. Changes to counter-extremism and minority rights legislation
Legislative changes in Europe this year were predominantly aimed at solving the following issues: a) rapid illegal immigration; b) integration of legal immigrants; c) social radicalisation; d) terrorism. This was done by introducing tougher migration and anti-racism legislation, and combating various forms of hate crime. The European Union also continued to liberalise LGBT relations. However, countering terrorism has been the main objective of European legislators in recent years.
France, which has the highest number of radical Islamist groups in the European Union and has suffered most from extremism in the region, had adopted a Security and Counter Terrorism Act in December 2012. The law provided for much tougher punishment for people complicit in terrorist activities.7
In 2015, France furthered its anti-extremism legislation by adopting a surveillance act (July 24, 2015), which among other things allowed the security services to plant so-called “black boxes” at internet service providers in order to “monitor traffic and suspicious behavioural patterns through the real-time analysis of metadata.”9
Note that the French were particularly critical of the United States Counter Terrorism Act, adopted following the 9/11 attacks and containing similar provisions. Thus, following the adoption of the French counterpart of the Act, President Fran?ois Hollande sent the bill for the approval of the Constitutional Council, which found it corresponded to the French Constitution.10
It is fair to say that French and American anti-extremism legislation formed the model for counter terrorism legislation in many countries around the world.
In 2015, Germany11
Analysing modern European counter terrorism legislation reveals several of its key elements:
1. Possibility of temporary border control or closure.
2. Introduction of pre-trial ban on travel and confiscation of travel documents, based on security intelligence.
3. Legalisation of internment, deprivation of citizenship, and deportation of persons complicit in terrorist activity (amendments to the Citizenship Act of the Netherlands allows for the annulment of citizenship in the interest of national security).
4. Increased online surveillance.
5. Tougher measures to combat the funding of terrorist activities.
6. Closer monitoring of suspicious activity or behaviour through cooperation with ISPs, transport, medical and other services.
7. Bans on social welfare for so-called “Jihadi tourists.”
Another group of legislative changes in Europe in 2015 focused migration flows.
In July 2015, Germany tightened its Refugee Act, introducing criminal liability for providing false information when seeking asylum. Illegal migrants can not only be arrested, but also have their passports taken away until further notice. Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizi?re (Christian Democratic Union) said that strict treatment of new migrants is necessary to ensure that the public agrees with immigration and entry of people who are really in need of Germany’s protection.16
In July and August, Hungary amended its border regulations and introduced criminal responsibility for illegally entering the country.17
Russia is taking measures to streamline the immigration process. As of May 2015, Russian authorities rejected entry for 1.35 million foreign nationals who violated the regulations of stay. Registration of foreign nationals has been somewhat improved. Previously, many migrant workers were registering in so-called “rubber flats” – addresses that have no relation to their actual place of residence. Such flats often officially housed hundreds of migrants, who actually lived in other places, or did not have housing at all. Since the adoption of a corresponding law, the number of rubber flats was reduced from 10,090 to 1,160.18
On September 17, 2015, British Parliament introduced a new Immigration Bill, which was the result of a Conservative policy aimed at attracting Eurosceptics and those concerned with the increased flows of refugees.19
In 2015, the British government announced a plan to increase youth employment. It was proposed that jobseekers aged 18 to 21 will be sent to work boot camps – doing community service for 30 hours per week, four weeks per year, or face losing their Jobseekers Allowance.21
This sparked criticism from the public, including the fact that the bill would have been primarily aimed at national minorities and immigrants, as these groups have the highest levels of youth unemployment. For example, youth unemployment in black communities in the country is more than 50 %.22
France had also transformed its immigration legislation in 2015. Applications for asylum have been sped up from the maximum of 24 months to 9 months. At the end of this term, asylum seekers are to be granted asylum or deported from the country. Asylum seekers are now placed in special camps across the whole country (easing the burden on the Paris region), and under threat of losing social assistance and other privileges. In addition, the French parliament started considering a new bill on the rights of foreign nationals.23
The third group of legislative changes adopted in 2015 was aimed at streamlined integration of legal immigrants.
In June 2015, Greece adopted a law that automatically granted Greek citizenship to children of foreign nationals born in the country. This bill affects almost 200,000 second-generation immigrants.24
A similar bill was adopted in Italy. At the time of writing, it is awaiting the Senate’s approval. The so called ius soli act also provides citizenship to children of foreign nationals, provided they are permanent residents in the country. The law specifically mentions that it is targeted at non-EU citizens.25
European governments have been taking measures to encourage immigrants to adapt to new realities. However, these measures often result in outright forced denouncement of their identities. This was most apparent in the Netherlands, which adopted amendments to its integration legislation that affected non-EU citizens seeking residency. The new bill requires people who have been residing in the Netherlands for several years to pass a language exam and demonstrate knowledge of the local labour market. Some human rights observers believe that these exams are of no practical help to immigrants; rather, they demonstrate negative attitudes towards immigrants and facilitate isolationist tendencies. For example, migrants from Maghreb and Africa are asked what they would do “if they saw two men kissing on the street.” Expressing negative views in this case often results in failing the exam.26
This is a typical example of how European governments try to speed up the integration of legal immigrants, where integration comes in the form of assimilation and loss of traditional identities.
Russia has been seeking to improve the conditions for the employment of migrant workers. Since January 2015, people from countries with a visa-free agreement with Russia can seek employment outside quotas by acquiring a work patent (permit), provided they have indicated “work” as the reason for entry in the country. Thus migrant workers have been divided into two categories, which was supposed to improve the position of migrants from visa-free countries. However, the project turned out to be fraught with bureaucratic problems (see Section 2).
Finally, the fourth legislative trend in 2015 was related to combating radicalisation, racism, xenophobia, and facilitating peaceful religious relations.
On September 25, 2015, Poland introduced amendments to the Law on National, Ethnic Minorities, and Regional Languages (January 6, 2005). The proposed Article 9 of the Law on Supported Languages states that a minority language may be used in communication with municipal authorities to the same extent as the official language. This condition applies to municipalities where a “supported” linguistic minority group constitutes for 20 % of the population or above.27
In 2015, the German Criminal Code was amended with Art. 46.2, which instructed the courts to consider racist, xenophobic, or other discriminatory motives as aggravating circumstances in the commission of a crime.29
In Greece, a proposed amendment to the Criminal Code (Article 361B) introduced criminal responsibility for refusing goods and services on the basis of race, colour, national or ethnic origins, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The article came into force in July 201630
The decade-long debates surrounding the construction of a cathedral mosque and a mosque at a Muslim cemetery in Athens continued in the Greek parliament throughout 2015. The issue was first raised in 2006 and finally approved by parliament on August 3, 2016.32
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