The European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey found in a 12-month period 59% of Africans surveyed had been stopped at least once by gardaí. One in three eastern Europeans were stopped at least once in the same period. More than 1,000 Sub-Saharan Africans and eastern Europeans were surveyed.
The stop rate for Sub-Saharan Africans in Ireland was the highest for any ethnic minority surveyed in any of the 27 EU member states. Only members of the Roma in Greece experienced similarly high levels of police stops, with 56% stopped at least once in the pervious 12 months.
Claire McCarthy, policy officer with the Cork-based Nasc Irish Immigrant Support Centre, said her organisation was concerned that gardaí were instigating a policy of “ethnic profiling.”
“There is a feeling on the ground that there has been ethnic profiling by the gardaí. I think if you’re black and you live in Ireland you have a much, much higher chance of being stopped by gardaí.”
“The EU report goes a long way to proving such an approach by the gardaí is a reality.”
The report, published last month and based on a survey carried out in 2008, warns that “even where perceptions of (racial) profiling cannot be proven, the fact that significant numbers of minorities believe they are victims of profiling is evidence that work needs to be done to improve police relations and interaction with minority communities.”
Anti-profiling measures are an integral part of the training of the Garda Síochána’s over 600 ethnic liaison officers. Sergeant David McInerney of the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office said he was concerned by the survey findings as “anti-profiling measures are a key focus for us.
“If a member stops somebody without reasonable grounds to believe they have committed an offence there is something wrong and we won’t tolerate it. That we are working with, and must cater for the needs, of a rapidly changing population is something we are very aware of that.”
The editor of multicultural weekly newspaper Metro Eireann’s, Chinedu Onyejelem, said the perception that gardaí were employing racial profiling was resulting in growing anger and resentment in the Irish black community.
“People are angry, and if that continues it could lead to massive protests and there is the unfortunate possibility there could be violence – it’s an accident waiting to happen.”