This article is part of our special report EU equality bodies and the fight against racial discrimination.
Up to 9 in 10 hate crimes and attacks in the EU still go unreported because victims face difficulty reporting them, do not trust the police and believe that nothing would change if they report it, according to a new study by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency.
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The findings in the report ‘encouraging hate crime reporting: the role of law enforcement and other authorities’ published in July suggest that millions of people across the bloc experience hate-motivated violence and harassment.
The 81-page report found that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated existing racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, and triggered an upsurge in racist and xenophobic incidents against people of (perceived) Asian origin, Roma and migrants.
“EU countries have a duty to ensure access to justice for all. But too many hate crime victims do not report being attacked and too many countries do not record hate crimes properly,” said FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty.
“This needs to change. Countries should simplify reporting and improve hate crime recording, investigation and punishment to fully uphold victims’ rights,” he added.
Among its recommendations, the FRA urges EU countries to make hate crime reporting easier “by enabling third-party or anonymous reporting”.
It also states that EU countries “should provide practical guidance and training to the police, establish specialised hate crime units and ensure structured cooperation between law enforcement authorities, victim support organisations, civil society organisations and equality bodies”.
The report notes that among black people, those who are Muslim face slightly more frequent racist harassment than non-Muslims (24 % compared to 20%), while minority groups are twice as likely to suffer harassment or violence, the study found.
Of 8,709 respondents who provided details of the most recent bias-motivated incident they had experienced – and of the 708 who reported the incident – only 13 contacted a national equality body, human rights institution or Ombudsperson.
Meanwhile, even of the cases that were reported, only 36% were reported to the police.
A majority of Jewish and Roma victims did not report the incident to the police or any other organisation because they were not convinced that reporting would change anything. Others said that the reporting process was too bureaucratic and time-consuming.
9% of all respondents had experienced physical violence in the five years before the survey, but that figure rose to 22% among those from an ethnic minority, and 19% for those who self-identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. 17% of people with a disability or health problem had experienced violence.
The European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen has vowed to tighten its policies on combating racism and other forms of discrimination, last year unveiling an EU Anti-racism Action Plan 2020–2025, as well as individual strategy plans on victims’ rights, gender equality, Roma and LGBTQI equality.
However, a general lack of data collection across much of the EU and the weakness of national equalities organisations in many EU countries, have resulted in uneven levels of reporting.
The low level of reporting of hate crimes means “obscuring the true extent of the problem and the urgent need for action. Victims that do not report such crimes will receive neither redress nor the necessary support,” the report read.