Racism and discrimination are part of everyday life for migrants in Europe

A report recently released by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) analyses the role of racism and discrimination in the exclusion of migrants* across Europe.

The increase in migration to Europe in 2015 and 2016 prompted heated debates at the political level, and in some countries leading politicians used openly racist and discriminatory terms and inflammatory rhetoric, with little or no consequence for their behaviour. The extreme politicisation of migration issues led to a rise of far-right movements in many European countries.

The ‘otherisation’ of certain categories of migrants, especially irregular and Muslim migrants, led to their criminalisation and portrayal as terrorists. The attacks in France and Belgium in 2015 further led to an increase in Islamophobia and anti-migrant rhetoric.

The data collected by ENAR in 26 EU countries highlights additionally how mainstream media has been employed as a mean to spread hatred and racism, mostly by failing to challenge the national political establishments in their views on migration. The lack of diversity among news producers and the little or no space given to migrants’ voices has contributed to the alienation between ‘newcomers’ and ‘locals’.

Even the positive shift in rhetoric which followed the publication of the picture of the body of Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler who drowned in the Aegean Sea in September 2015, had only a minor effect. Public opinion was strongly influenced by mainstream reporting which overwhelmingly focused on a negative portrayal of migrants, enhanced by the terror attacks and the violence in Cologne for New Year’s Eve, allegedly perpetrated by asylum seekers. Public opinion is also increasingly shaped by social media content, and the dangerous ‘fake news’.

The overall political and public climate became somewhat conducive to a spike in racially motivated attacks against migrants and migrants’ shelters. The number of convictions of the perpetrators of these crimes remains worryingly low across Europe.

The increase in arrivals over the past two years has led to a political crisis, in which migrants face the brunt of increasingly restrictive, discriminatory and exclusionary policies enacted with the aim of ‘securing’ Europe and stopping migration.

The report argues that diversity, one of the founding values of the European Union, should not be treated as a threat, but cherished instead. The promotion of diversity and of the rights of minorities should be one of the key commitments of EU Member States.


Read the full report, Racism and Discrimination in the Context of Migration in Europe.

* The report uses the term migrant as a broader category including also refugees and asylum seekers.

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