High levels of racism uncovered in EU report

DISCRIMINATION against immigrants is widespread in Ireland and the country is one of the most difficult in Europe for minorities according to a major report.

The Irish Human Rights Commission said it is gravely concerned at the findings of the report, the first of its kind, which was published by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency.

Three out of four immigrants from Africa feel helpless in the face of abuse and discrimination that they say affects every sphere of their lives, from ordering a coffee in a cafe to having their children educated.

Even immigrants from other EU countries in central and eastern Europe say they suffer from discrimination with 25% saying abuse is widespread in the country, while more than half of them say they do not know of any organisation that could support or help them.

The figures released in Brussels, which the agency says is just a taster of the full report, shows Africans in Ireland among the top 10 worst groups in four out of five important areas.

More than half of the immigrants from Sub-Sahara Africa said they had problems in at least one of nine areas over the past year.

These included when at work or looking for work; looking to buy or rent a home; by healthcare, school, or social service personnel; at a cafe, restaurant, bar or shop, when trying to open a bank account or get a loan.

Only the Roma in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Greece reported higher levels of discrimination, the survey finds.

More than a quarter (29%) of Africans in Ireland said they were victims of crime over the previous year – the fifth highest group in the EU. The crime varied from theft and burglary to assaults, threats and serious harassment. In the EU, half of victims of racist assaults and threats did not report the crime because they were not confident police would be able to do anything.

More than a third of Africans in Ireland said they avoided certain public places, such as parks and pubs, for fear of being threatened or assaulted.

Only the Roma in Poland felt in greater danger.

Jo Goodey of the Fundamental Rights Agency said the report was a snapshot of the daily racism suffered by immigrants. But perhaps the most worrying part was that the figures showed incidents are grossly under-reported and racism was far more widespread than the official figures suggest.

“We need to encourage people to report and we need comprehensive figures so that policy makers know what they are dealing with.”

Dr Maurice Manning, president of the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC), described the findings as shocking. “More needs to be done to protect people in Ireland against racist discrimination and abuse and to publicise the existence of organisations such as the Irish Human Rights Commission.”

The recent budget cuts to the IHRC and the Equality Authority and the closure of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Intolerance was only likely to worsen the situation.

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