European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Press Release – 27.01.2004

Council of Europe: Five new reports on racism

Strasbourg, 27.01.2004 – The Council of Europe’s expert body on combating racism, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), today released five new reports examining racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance in Belgium, Bulgaria, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland. ECRI recognises that, in all of these five Council of Europe member countries, positive developments have occurred. At the same time, the reports detail continuing grounds for concern for the Commission:

In Belgium, the issue of political parties which resort to racist or xenophobic propaganda is of special concern to ECRI. Much remains to be done to ensure that foreigners and persons of immigrant background enjoy genuinely equal opportunities in employment. The increase in manifestations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia calls for concerted efforts of Belgian society as a whole against these phenomena.

In Bulgaria, there are still stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination against minority groups, particularly Roma, as well as against immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. There are still serious problems connected with the excessive use of firearms and force by the police against Roma, and ECRI stresses the problem of segregation of Roma children in schools. Furthermore, the new Denominations Act passed in 2002 does not remedy all the shortcomings as regards freedom of religion in Bulgaria.

In Norway, the need to ensure adequate protection against racist expression remains of special concern to ECRI. Much remains to be done to ensure that foreigners and persons of immigrant background enjoy genuinely equal opportunities in employment and housing. Furthermore, a number of issues as regards the situation of immigrants and asylum-seekers in Norway are raised by ECRI.

In Slovakia, racially-motivated violence, including serious acts of police brutality continues. The Roma minority remains severely disadvantaged in most areas of life, particularly in the fields of housing, employment and education. ECRI also calls for a full, transparent and impartial investigation into the recent allegations concerning sterilisations of Roma women without their full and informed consent.

In Switzerland, the incidence of police misbehaviour and discriminatory treatment towards members of certain minority groups, notably black Africans, is a matter of concern, as is the general climate of opinion in society towards this group. The issue of asylum-seekers and refugees is also the subject of negative and hostile debate in public and political spheres, and a number of problems remain in the field of the asylum procedure.

These new reports form part of a third cycle of monitoring of Council of Europe member States’ laws, policies and practices in order to combat racism. ECRI’s country-specific reports are available in English and in French on the internet site and in the national language of the country concerned by contacting ECRI’s Secretariat. They cover all member States on an equal footing, in the perspective of the protection of human rights. They examine if ECRI’s main recommendations from previous reports have been followed, and if so, with what degree of success and effectiveness.