The ongoing economic crisis is resulting in diminished economic opportunities and welfare cuts for vulnerable groups, and is pushing them into poverty, which breeds negative feelings on both sides of the social divide, says an activist organisation.
Immigrants and some historical minorities are perceived as a burden to society, says a report by European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.
“Discrimination in employment is rife,” says the report released earlier this month. “Racism and intolerance are on the rise in Europe today and the resulting tension sometimes leads to racist violence.
The report also raises concerns about reduced government spending on human rights. “Human rights institutions are also affected at a time when they are most needed.” The commission has urged European countries to avoid undermining the capacity of such institutions by subjecting them to radical budget cuts and staff reductions.
A more concerning trend identified by the commission is that Xenophobic parties have obtained more support in recent elections. “They now have a share in political power in these countries, directly or indirectly.”
“Political leaders must at all costs resist pandering to prejudice and misplaced fears about the loss of “European values”, terrorism and common criminality.”
Some European countries failed on several accounts in their reaction to the sudden influx of migrants in 2011 – resulting from the events in North Africa. “The problems witnessed included excessively rapid returns of some arrivals and poor reception conditions.
The culture of “policing”, which seems to have prevailed in the management of this migration influx, has also produced a crisis (and) have added further fuel to the xenophobic debate.”
The commission’s report also highlighted multiple discrimination being faced by certain groups. “Muslim women are, for example, subject to prejudice not only because of their religion but also because of their gender and, quite often, their migration background.
“Many of their difficulties in finding employment or housing are linked to their choice to wear a headscarf.”