Some counter-terrorism measures and policing practices can be discriminatory and are having a disproportionate and damaging impact on ethnic and religious minorities and migrants in Europe. We need fair security and policing policies grounded in human rights, equality and long term social inclusion.

The terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 and heightened security concerns have led to a new set of counter-terrorism measures at both EU and national levels.

While security threats require effective action, the EU and its Member States are responding to these by reinforcing a repressive/securitisation approach rather than develop a balanced approach that would both reinforce security and human rights enjoyment for all, as well as focus on long-term inclusion measures.

The restrictions on human rights that result or could result from current counter-terrorism measures are significant, and are having a disproportionate impact on ethnic and religious minorities, including Muslims, people of African descent, migrants, or people perceived to be from these groups. Many innocent Muslims are for instance targeted mainly on the basis of their religious practice, with no evidence pointing to their involvement in any criminal act.

In addition, relations between the police and law enforcement on the one hand, and ethnic and religious minorities and migrants on the other, remain tense.

Ethnic profiling by police and border guards – being singled out for identity checks or searches because of one’s race, ethnicity or perceived religion, rather than on the basis of individual behaviour or objective evidence – is an important factor. In the context of counter-terrorism and stricter migration policies, ethnic profiling has been reported to be increasing in several EU member states. This also generates mistrust in police, making the very communities whose support is necessary for fighting crime reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

Police violence and abuse against minorities is also frequent in Europe. Excessive use of force is common in police operations targeting undocumented migrants, Roma, Muslims and people of African descent.

The lack of police investigation into racist crime adds to difficult police/communities relations. There have been cases of police failing to investigate the potential racist elements of a crime, even when racist language was used at the time of the crime, and cases of victims being treated as perpetrators by the police.

What are we doing about it?

We work at EU and national levels to ensure trust building and fair security and policing policies grounded in human rights, equality and long term social inclusion.

We call for EU standards on fair policing that would support States’ action to outlaw and counter ethnic profiling.

We advocate for police and security forces to be trained on fundamental rights, non-discrimination, procedural justice and unconscious bias, and accountable for their role as interfaces between residents/citizens and the State.

We monitor the impact of counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation measures on groups at risk of racism. We call for the inclusion of human rights safeguards by governments as well as impact assessment of these measures, in consultation with civil society organisations. We are also pushing for proper monitoring and independent oversight mechanisms to ensure accountability of law enforcement authorities.


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