-* What is ethnic profiling?

  • Is ethnic profiling effective?
  • What is the impact of discriminatory policing practices?

What is ethnic profiling?

Ethnic profiling is the use by law enforcement officials of racial, ethnic, national, or religious characteristics – rather than individual behaviour or objective evidence – as a way of singling out people for identity or security checks. It constitutes illegal discrimination under European and international law.

Is ethnic profiling effective?

No. Ethnic profiling alienates some of the very people whose cooperation is necessary for effective crime detection and law enforcement. In addition, when police treat an entire group of people as suspicious, they are more likely to miss dangerous persons who do not fit the profile. Stops and searches conducted under counterterrorism powers in Europe have produced few terrorism charges and no convictions.

What is the impact of discriminatory policing practices?

Migrant and ethnic and religious minorities across Europe are disproportionately affected by ethnic profiling and discriminatory treatment by the police. It leads to feelings of fear, humiliation and alienation, and of being excluded from society. It not only affects individuals, but also their families and entire communities. It generates lower levels of trust in the police, leading to reluctance to cooperate with police officers. It also stigmatises entire groups of people as criminals or potential terrorists; and legitimates and reinforces racism and stereotyping in the wider society.

What’s the existing EU legislation on counter-terrorism?

The EU in 2016 has worked towards a Directive on combating terrorism, to be formally adopted in 2017 [link]. The foreseen criminal offences in the directive’s punitive measures may be disproportionately applied and implemented in a manner that discriminates against specific ethnic and religious communities.

Despite the inclusion of a general human rights safeguarding clause the Directive fails to fully protect human rights within the EU:

– The directive repeats the EU’s already overly broad definition of ‘terrorism,’ which permits states to criminalise, as terrorism, public protests or other peaceful acts that they deem ’seriously destabilise the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.’

– Significantly, the directive requires states to criminalise a series of preparatory acts that may have a minimal or no direct link to a violent act of terrorism, and may never result in one being committed. For example the offences of participating in a terrorist group, travelling or receiving training for terrorist purposed are not adequately defined. Unless these broadly outlined offences are subject to careful drafting and strong safeguards in national law, they are likely to lead to violations of rights, including the right to liberty and freedoms of expression, association, and movement.

– The directive criminalises the public distribution of messages, including messages that ‘glorify’ terrorist acts, if the distribution is intentional and causes a danger that a terrorist offence may be committed. However, such a low threshold is likely to lead to abuse if not limited to incitement that is directly causally responsible for increasing the actual likelihood of an attack.


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