Speech on Afrophobia in Europe at the EU high-level group on combating racism
ENAR representative Jallow Momodou spoke at the EU High Level Group on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of Intolerance on 5 December 2017, which included a discussion on Afrophobia in Europe.
I want to thank you for inviting me to speak here today to address the High Level Group for Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of Intolerance in its first official discussion of Afrophobia. I hope the distinguished policymakers in the room today recognize the importance of addressing the racism and specific forms of racism experienced by people of African descent across Europe. I am pleased this conversation is beginning, although the EU is lagging behind, as recalled at the regional conference of the UN Decade for people of African descent two weeks ago in Geneva.
I will speak today from my perspective as a political representative and newly appointed member of the Swedish Parliament, but also from civil society, from the Pan African Movement for Justice in Sweden and the European Network Against Racism.
ENAR A few words about ENAR. ENAR is a European network of NGOs working to combat racism and related discriminations that combines advocacy and cross-communities action. ENAR and its members have a strong expertise on Afrophobia, as well as other forms of racism.
In 2016 ENAR produced the first ever pan-European comparative report on Afrophobia in the European Union, setting out the available evidence on racism experienced by PAD in Europe. You may find both publications in the room, and on ENAR’s website.
Afrophobia is a specific form of racism that refers to any act of violence or discrimination, fuelled by historical abuses and negative stereotyping, and leading to the exclusion and dehumanisation of people of African descent. Afrophobia refers to anti-Black racism and it correlates to historically repressive structures of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.
It is estimated that there are 15 million people of African descent and Black Europeans in Europe. There are people of African descent in all EU member States, from very low percentages in the Baltic countries to 5.4% of the population in the Netherlands. We are one of the largest minorities in Europe, and yet, there is not one single European or national policy dedicated to addressing racism experienced by people of African Descent.
The lack of a European wide policy for PAD is increasingly problematic as people of African descent experience systematic discrimination in almost all areas of public life, including inequality in access to employment, education, and healthcare. Black people are disproportionately represented in European criminal justice systems, are often subject to discriminatory policing, and are overwhelmingly the victims of sometimes fatal police violence. For these injustices and inequality, we have not yet received proper accountability or redress.
We are also regularly subjected to racist stereotypes and caricatures, which serve to exacerbate and justify the systematic discrimination we have faced. I say this with particular reference to 5th December saint Nicholas celebrations in the Netherlands and Belgium, where the racist practice of black-facing is seen by many as a core part of the tradition, to be defended at all costs. This is affecting us and our children who face bullying, psychological and sometimes physical violence. We hope you will enjoy your Saint Nicholas present, a children’s book promoting a positive and empowering image of Black children. Because all children deserve an inclusive and respectful celebration.
More globally, we have in the past weeks seen the enslavement, sale, including physical and sexual abuse, of Black people in Libya. It is important to see this is in the context of EU policies on migration, which are increasingly externalized at the detriment of human rights protection. A new plan from the European Union seeks to trap migrants in asylum processing centres in Libya, infringing on their right to claim asylum in a safe country.
I speak of this to paint the wider picture of the situation of people of African descent. When we fight racist violence, we must look to the deeper causes of racism and discrimination in our world to fully address it.
People of African descent and Black Europeans are victims of particularly violent racist crime. This is shown by evidence from countries across Europe:
• The latest EU-MIDIS II survey reveals that immigrants and descendants of immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa are among those who experienced the most hatred-motivated violence, in particular in Austria, Malta, Finland and Germany. 21% respondents have also experienced racist harassment.
• According to ENAR’s Shadow Report on Afrophobia, Racist crimes that target Black people have been linked to far right groups in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Sweden.
• In 2008 in Sweden, Afro-Swedes were the most exposed to hate crimes, seeing 24% increase. In 2015, one man stabbed three persons to death in what was qualified as a racist attack in Trollhättan school in Sweden.
• In Greece in 2014, there were 49 cases of racist violence against people of African descent reported by the Racist Violence Recording Network and 36 cases of hate speech towards PAD/BE reported by the Greek Forum of Migrants.
Many discrimination and hate crime cases are not properly investigated and the racist bias is often not considered as an aggravating factor.
As you know, a majority of cases are not reported to public authorities in part due to fear of discrimination or reprisal by investigating authorities, while in other cases poor response by police and prosecutors has resulted in impunity and re-victimisation. In other instances, legal redress has proven complicated, time consuming and expensive.
• Among all groups surveyed by FRA respondents with Sub-Saharan African background (and North African) indicate being stopped by the police more frequently than other immigrant
• Where there is data, it shows that, like in the UK, Black people can be stopped 8 times more than white people.
What are the solutions to the pervasive racist violence experienced by people of African descent? How to we address it?
I want to emphasise the importance of both evidence and action. It is crucial that we get a clear picture of the specific trends of racist violence experienced by people of African descent, in order to know how best to respond.
At EU level we are happy to hear evidence from the FRA with more specific attention paid to the situation of people of African Descent in the new EU MIDIS survey. Unfortunately, the categories based on migration background do not fully represent people of African Descent in Europe, excluding 3rd generation who are also face violence due to the colour of their skin. These categories should be revised to include self-identificatory data on people of African descent.
Nevertheless the FRA data gives an indication of the widespread violence and discrimination experienced by PAD. In response. The EU should give more visibility to racism against people of African descent, similarly to what is being done for Antigyspsyism, Antisemitism and Islamophobia. For instance, First Vice President Timmermans could issue a statement on the occasion of the UN International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (25th March) and appoint a European Commission coordinator on Afrophobia. The EU should also develop an EU framework for National Strategies to combat Afrophobia. In September this year, members of the European Parliament discussed the issue of Afrophobia for the first time in an official meeting and progress has been made towards a resolution of the European Parliament.
At national level, we also need to improve first our understanding of racist violence experienced by Black people, and then implement changes to address this.
We need disaggregated hate crime data to understand fully racist violent incidents against people of African descent. This should also be disaggregated by gender to understand the experiences of Black women, who are often the most vulnerable to violence, both due to their race and gender.
With this evidence we can then take action to properly record, investigate and prosecute racist attacks against black people.
A big part of this is to restore trust between communities and authorities to ensure they feel protected and safe to go to the police to report. The only way to ensure this is to provide real justice for victims of racist violence and their families, to outlaw, monitor and sanction racial profiling, and the accountability of abusive behavior of state actors against people of African descent by the criminal justice systems.
The solutions we need are systematic, just as the problem is. We want to combat the root causes, rather than just be in response mode.
As such, we call on member states to develop Action Plans to combat racism and to specifically address Afrophobia. These plans should recognize historical and structural injustices faced by people of African Descent, and take concrete steps to address this, as suggested by the UN Decade for people of African descent. In these National Action plans, Member States need to include the collection of equality data based on self-identification. They also need to set out real and effective policies to address racist violence against people of African descent, but also tackle structural disadvantages experienced by people of African descent in all areas of public life.
To conclude, we welcome this step taken by Commission and Member States to acknowledge and start to address the specific experience of PAD. Let us use this opportunity to tackle racist violence and its underlying causes.
Thank you for your attention.