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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
tension and backlash against Muslims in Europe
Economic crisis fuelling racism in
Europe, report warns
The economic downturn has led to a rise in discrimination, racism and
xenophobia in Europe, particularly in EU countries such as Italy,
Slovakia and Hungary, the latest Amnesty International report on human
"The marginalisation was heightened in 2009 by fears of the economic
downturn, and accompanied in many countries by a sharp rise in racism
and hate speech in public discourse," the annual report reads.
It cites Italy for having passed new legislation as part of a security
package establishing as a criminal offence "irregular migration", which
would deter irregular migrants from accessing education and medical care
for fear of being reported to the police.
This is especially the case given existing provisions in the criminal
code obliging teachers or local authority employees to report all
criminal acts to the police or judicial authorities.
The UK government is criticised for having put behind bars Iraqis who
were rejected by Baghdad when flown back to the country, an expression
of the "encroaching prison culture" when dealing with irregular
migrants. In December, the Royal Colleges of Paediatrics and Child
Health, General Practitioners and Psychiatrists issued a joint statement
calling for an immediate end to the administrative detention of children
under Immigration Act powers on the basis that it was "shameful",
"damaging", and "permanently harmful to children's health".
In Germany, irregular migrants and their children have limited access to
health care, education, and judicial remedies in cases of labour rights
Segregation of Roma continues to be a serious problem in central and
eastern Europe, but also in Italy, where "unlawful forced evictions"
drive them further into poverty. Italy also passed new legislation
enabling local authorities to authorise associations of unarmed
civilians not belonging to state or local police forces to patrol the
territory of a municipality, a measure which "may result in
discrimination and vigilantism", especially against Roma.
Slovakia stands out particularly for Romani children segregation, with
the Roma Education Fund reporting that almost 60 percent of them are put
in special classes for mentally disabled, although they were not
diagnosed as such. Local authorities are criticised for engaging in
forced evictions and even erecting walls to separate Roma settlements
from the rest of the community.
Bratislava is also suspected of turning a blind eye to sterlisation of
Romani women, even though it has announced legislative measures
requiring health workers to seek informed consent for such procedures
and introduced the new criminal offence of "illegal sterilisation".
However, according to the Centre for Civil and Human Rights,the Ministry
for Health Care failed to issue any implementing guidelines on
sterilisations and informed consent for health workers.
Eight Romani women lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human
rights claiming their infertility is a result of a sterilisation
procedure performed on them during delivery in an eastern Slovakian
hospital. A similar case was finalised in Hungary, after eight years of
national and international legal proceedings, with the Ministry of
Social Affairs announcing it would provide financial compensation to a
Romani woman sterilised without her consent in 2001.
Hungary's political and economic "upheaval", with an IMF lifeline
translating into public sector wage and social programme cuts, has
proved a fertile ground for the far-right party Jobbik, with its strong
anti-Roma and anti-Semitic agenda.
The Hungarian police beefed up its special task force to 120 officers to
investigate a series of attacks against Roma, which cost the lives of at
least nine people, including women and children.
In July, the Budapest Court of Appeal issued a legally binding ruling
banning the Magyar Garda, a paramilitary organisation linked to Jobbik.
The court ruled that the Magyar Garda's activities overstepped its
rights as an association and curtailed liberties of the Roma. But later
in July, Jobbik announced the relaunch of Magyar Garda, and one of its
newly elected members of the European Parliament wore a Magyar Garda
uniform to the first parliamentary session in Brussels.
Authorities in a number of countries continued to foster a climate of
intolerance against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
communities, making it harder for their rights to be protected. In
August, the Lithuanian parliament adopted a controversial law that "institutionalised
homophobia", by potentially prohibiting any discussion of homosexuality,
impede the work of human rights defenders and further stigmatize LGBT
"Member states of the EU continued to block a new regional directive on
non-discrimination, which would simply close a legal protection gap for
those experiencing discrimination outside of employment on the grounds
of disability, belief, religion, sexual orientation and age," the report
Italy and Malta are also singled out for their anti-immigrant stance and
the practice of pushing back boats coming from across the Mediterranean,
sometimes without assessing the needs of the people on board.
"In May, the lives and safety of hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers
on three vessels in the Mediterranean were placed at risk first by a
squabble between the Italian and Maltese authorities over their
obligations to respond to maritime distress calls, and then by the
Italian government's unprecedented decision to send those in the boats
to Libya – a country with no functioning asylum procedure – without
assessing their protection needs," the report reads.
Countries such as Greece and Malta "routinely" detained migrants and
asylum-seekers, and in inappropriate conditions.
Amnesty International also criticises the "effective and transparent
accountability" for human rights abuses in the context of the secret
rendition and detention program of the CIA after 2001, in which scores
of EU countries were involved.
A German parliamentary inquiry into German involvement in renditions
concluded in July 2009, but exonerated all German state actors, despite
compelling evidence to the contrary.
The methods, evidence and findings of an investigation into the
existence of an alleged secret prison in Poland, finally begun in 2008,
still remain secret.
Several European states ignored the rulings of the European Court of
Human Rights against the return of suspects of terrorism to countries
where they were at risk of torture.