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25/09/2016

German government denies it has a racism problem

Justice & Home Affairs

German government denies it has a racism problem

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[Eoghan OLionnain/Flickr]

The German government sees no reason to take seriously allegations of institutional racism in public agencies and the police force. Civil rights advocates are growing increasingly alarmed. Tagesspiegel reports.

According to the German government, racism does not exist in German government agencies and state institutions. The cases encountered so far “do not provide a basis for the detection of a structural problem”, the government indicated in a response to a minor inquiry from the Left Party’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag. They all refer “to police measures which were subjectively viewed as unjustified”, the response reads. Because of those involved “in individual cases, the impression could wrongly” arise that they only caught the attention of police due to their skin colour or other physical characteristics, the government wrote.

UN’s previous criticism in Sarrazin case

Germany has been accused of not adequately combatting racism multiple times by the UN’s commission on racism. When author and former Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin was not taken to court for his comments against Berliners of Turkish and Arab origin, the United Nations criticised the lack of a German legal framework to prosecute racism. Most recently, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a “concerned” statement.

In the case of the NSU serial murders, “the public authorities still [fail]… to recognise their own systematic deficiencies and the racist motive behind these crimes”, the UN indicates in a comment on Berlin’s situation report. “Institutional racism could be hidden behind this failure.” It is also a reason for concern “that even the report from the parliamentary investigation committee assigned to investigate the state’s failure neither refers specifically to racist discrimination nor to the racist motive with regard to the murders committed. In the big picture, all of these elements seem to indicate structural discrimination as the actual cause of these problems.”

Government feels it is right in the NSU report

In its response to the inquiry, the government says there is no need for action, justifying itself with precisely the NSU committee report criticised by the UN. “With regard to its evaluation of failures in the investigation of acts committed by the National Socialist Underground (NSU), the German government orients itself according to the findings of the NSU investigation committee. In its joint evaluation (with its 47 recommendations for action) the committee did not find any structural/institutional racism among investigative authorities.”

Increasing number of lawsuits over racial profiling

With regard to racist measures and behaviour beyond the NSU complex, the individuals concerned, as the government referred to them, are no longer only “subjectively” convinced that this discrimination exists. In multiple cases of racial profiling, courts have ruled in their favour. Germany’s Bundespolizei is currently defending itself against a ruling in favour of a dark-skinned couple from Mainz. Both of them were the only ones checked by police in a train. Such controls targeting physical features, not only by police but also other representatives of the state, constitute official discrimination against dark-skinned individuals in Germany.

This situation recently came to light again in the case brought by the Frankfurt-based engineer Derege Wevelsiep, who sustained several blows during a ticket inspection. Social Democratic MP Karamba Diaby from the city of Halle was the first black individual to be elected to the German parliament. He recently spoke in the Bundestag about his experiences and the shame and resignation which often prevents those affected from pressing racial profiling charges.

Left Party: German history serves as a reminder

Meanwhil,e Left Party MP Sevim Dagdelen said it is “catastrophic that, in light of the growing wave of racist violence in Germany, the government is not prepared to seek ways to fight racism and institutional [racism]”. “Especially in the context of Germany’s history this is extremely dangerous,” Dagdelen warned.

Background

For months, a xenophobic movement labelled the “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident” - 'Pegida' under its German acronym - demonstrated against supposed “foreign infiltration” of German society through Islam.

The movement also campaigned against numerous other phenomena: against asylum applicants, against Germany’s and Europe’s Russia-policy and against the media.

The largest Pegida demonstration included 18,000 participants and took place at the end of December in Dresden.

Organisers and supporters of the Pegida movement consider themselves a “citizen’s movement” and publicly distance themselves from right-wing extremists. They rely on the “Christian idea of man” but church leaders accuse them of “racism veiled by religion”.

Pegida uses fear of Islamic terror to spread general sentiment against refugees and foreigners. The alliance itself speaks of a defamation campaign.