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Press Release – 08.07.2003

Council of Europe: Five new reports on racism

Strasbourg, 08.07.2003 – 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 Armenia, Iceland, Luxemburg, Slovenia and Spain. ECRI recognises that, in all 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 Armenia, ECRI notes a lack of sufficient attention and resources devoted to the promotion of the linguistic and cultural heritage of minority groups. There seems to be a sense among certain minority groups that their situation has worsened compared to the majority population and they report instances of discrimination. The large group of ethnic Armenian refugees living in the country also face problems of integration and are particularly vulnerable to social and economic disadvantage and marginalisation. Moreover, a number of problems persist relating to the practice of certain minority religions within the country.

In Iceland, there still remain gaps in the legislative protection against racism and discrimination. Although little research data exist, there are indications that the situation of non-citizens and persons of immigrant origin may not be wholly satisfactory in various fields of life, including employment and education. Manifestations of hostility and discrimination in daily life towards persons who are different from the majority are reported, and there seems to be a lack of an overarching policy vision and strategies to deal with any problems which exist.

In Luxembourg, difficulties remain as regards the implementation of legislation designed to combat racism and discrimination. The way in which some officials deal with immigrants and asylum seekers is not always satisfactory. There remain too many prejudices and xenophobic stereotypes among the general public and these can lead to discrimination in the employment and housing sectors.

In Slovenia, ECRI underlines that improvements in the situation of the ex-Yugoslav minority groups, many members of whom are still non-citizens, will depend on the speed and efficiency of implementing the new legislation. Furthermore, there still exists a certain level of prejudice and intolerance among the Slovenian population towards those who are different from the majority. In certain areas, the Roma population is faced with economic and social difficulties, which make its members vulnerable to discrimination.

In Spain, problems of racism and xenophobia persist and concern particularly Roma/Gypsies and non-EU citizens. This situation appears to be partly linked to an inadequate implementation of the existing legislation to fight against these phenomena but also to the widespread use in public debate of arguments and imagery that create a negative climate around immigration and immigrants. The implementation of certain aspects of Spain's immigration policy and other relevant legislation in some parts of its territory, notably the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, is a cause for concern.

These five new reports form part of a second cycle of monitoring of Council of Europe member States’ laws, policies and practices in order to combat racism. ECRI’s country-specific reports (available on the internet site www.coe.int/ecri in English and French) cover all member States on an equal footing, in the perspective of the protection of human rights.