ENAR is an institution that is not well known in Turkey, unlike in Europe. Would you briefly introduce your institution for researchers in Turkey and those interested in the subject?
The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) is a pan-European anti-racist network that combines advocacy for racial equality and facilitating cooperation among civil society anti-racist actors in Europe.
Our overall mission is to achieve full equality, solidarity, and well-being for all in Europe. We want to allow all members of society, whatever their skin color, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation, to participate and be included in society. We focus specifically on combating racism and discrimination based on color, ethnicity, national origin, nationality, religion, culture, language or legal status.
ENAR advocates for effective, human rights-based, anti-racism and anti-discrimination EU policies and legislation. We provide analysis, vision, concrete policy proposals, and strive to help EU and national policy and decision makers react to current challenges according to human rights-based approaches, rooted in the rule of law. We also aim to achieve change by connecting local and national anti-racism organizations throughout Europe and empowering civil society activists to bring local change that can have a broader impact up to the European level.
What are your primary work areas?
Our main areas of work are:
- Equality data collection: ENAR is calling for equality data collection to measure discrimination and ensure equality of outcome.
- Racist crime: ENAR is calling for better enforcement of existing legislation against racist crime – to ensure they are reported, recorded and sanctioned.
- Employment: We are advocating for the removal of labor market barriers affecting ethnic and religious minorities, including migrants.
- Migration: ENAR is calling on the EU to focus on the integration of migrants, including their right to security and non-discrimination.
- Security and policing: ENAR is calling for the inclusion of human rights safeguards and independent oversight mechanisms in EU and national counter-terrorism laws.
- ENAR focuses on specific forms of racism faced by Roma, people of African descent and Black Europeans, Muslims, Jews. We are calling for specific national strategies to address Antigypsyism, Afrophobia, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism.
When did you start work on racism and migration issues?
We have worked on migration issues and policies since the establishment of ENAR, focusing specifically on non-discrimination aspects of these policies and how their impact racial, ethnic and religious minorities.
You have published the Shadow Report on Racism and Migration in Europe. Which points stand out in the report?
The main conclusion is that anti-migrant political discourses and exclusionary migration policies are having a disproportionate impact on racialized migrants.
Governments’ responses to rising levels of migrants and refugees entering Europe have become substitutes for debates on exclusion and security. Far-right parties and movements have been successful in setting the tone of the debate on immigration, particularly related to Muslim migrants. This is resulting in anti-migrant discourses and policies being seen as acceptable and mainstreamed across the political spectrum.
Racist attacks against migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and their accommodation were reported by civil society organizations across the EU. In Germany for instance, a total of 3,729 attacks against refugees and asylum seekers were reported in 2016 – more than 10 hate crimes per day. In Greece, 75 racist incidents targeting immigrants and refugees were reported in 2015, a 60% increase compared to 2014.
A number of barriers in the labor market – discrimination, restrictions linked to migration status, lack of recognition of qualifications, language – result in an employment gap between migrants and nationals and in many migrants falling victim to exploitation. In the absence of national migrant integration plans that address racial or status discrimination in the labor market, inclusion and progression in the labor market remain difficult for racialized migrants.
The framing of migration as a security risk for the European Union and the introduction of new border and counter-terrorism measures in some Member States has led to ethnic profiling and discriminatory policing of migrants. In Finland, police and border guards were observed carrying out spot checks specifically targeting “non-Finnish looking” people in several cities in April 2016. In Italy, certain African nationalities, e.g. Nigerians, are systematically prevented from formally claiming asylum in hotspots, and instead are directly issued a formal ‘refusal’ order. In Austria, Belgium, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, foreign nationals and Muslim migrants are increasingly reported to the police or checked by the police due to alleged ‘suspicious behavior’.
What are the most common racist discourses in mainstream media in Europe?
In the many Member States, media outlets have done little more than reproducing the political discourse that frames refugees as a threat, contributing to shifting public opinion on this issue. Over the course of 2015/2016 much of the mainstream media failed to seriously challenge the political establishment on their positions regarding immigration. In particular, media reporting of terrorist attacks and nativist responses by politicians shifted the public position on how to manage migration. For example, in Romania, by the end of 2015, after the Paris attacks, 75.6% of Romanians considered that Romania should not receive refugees and 80.2% were against refugees settling in Romania.
It has to be noted that journalists reporting on migration issues are often not experts and biased reporting and presentation of information occurs due to a lack of understanding, knowledge, and experience of journalists.
Which ethnic or religious identity expose to racist expressions, according to your works?
The racialization of criminality and in particular terrorism for Muslim migrants shows a ‘hardening’ in political discourses on minorities, especially Muslims. Although the process of racializing and criminalizing Muslims has been instrumented for decades, the terrorist events in France and Belgium in 2015 and 2016 were precursors to an increase in aggressive Islamophobic and anti-migrant rhetoric and hate speech in 2015/2016 in the many EU Member States.
Roma migrant communities continue to be targeted by hate speech, violence and discrimination in some EU Member States. The criminalization of begging occurs in some Member States and specifically targets Roma migrants from eastern Europe. For instance, the Sweden Democrats, a far-right party in Sweden, bought advertising space in the Stockholm subway and placed an advert in which they apologized to foreign tourists for the beggars on the streets of Stockholm.
African migrants, many in need of humanitarian protection in Europe, were framed by politicians and other commentators as ‘economic’ or ‘illegal’ migrants. For example, the United Kingdom’s then Home Secretary Theresa May said in 2015 that there were large numbers of people coming from countries such as Nigeria and Somalia who were “economic migrants who’ve paid criminal gangs to take them across the Mediterranean”. A UK columnist described African migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea as “cockroaches” in April 2015.
Is there a connection between racism and increasing immigration? Are you observing a significant change before and after 2015?
Restrictive policies and anti-migrant discourses contribute to an overall negative climate of hostility towards migrants, which can then legitimise discrimination, racist abuse or, in some cases, attacks targeting migrants. These policies and discourse also – directly or indirectly – disproportionately affect certain groups – e.g. Muslim migrants. For instance, when some politicians state they do not want to accept Muslim migrants in their countries, or when integration courses focus on ‘our’ values, thereby putting forward the assumption of a ‘non-civilised’ them – i.e. non-EU migrants.
Concurrent to the rising numbers of migrants seeking protection and a new life in Europe there has been a long-term growth in nativism informing immigration policies and national security laws. Nativism is a political practice that aims to protect or privilege the interests of the natives within the nation-state, often in opposition to immigration. Since the 1990s, immigration and security have become dominant election issues in many European countries. For nativists, as we have seen over decades in Europe, the ‘other’ is used as a tool to reinvent and further promote their own national identity. This has been especially the case in response to the rapid rise in migration over 2015/2016.
The so-called ‘migration crisis’ has been used as a rhetorical tool by many leaders within the European Union to misrepresent the events surrounding the rising numbers of migrants arriving on European shores and at the borders in 2015/2016. By the end of 2016 racism, Islamophobia and security have become a dominant part of the political discourse and are at the forefront of many political decisions regarding migration. Race, ethnicity, and poverty, although not always obvious, have been considerations for politicians and policymakers when deciding on who to welcome and who not.
When you compare pre- and post-refugee crises, what kind of change do you see in politics and in the attitude towards immigrants in the media?
2015/2016 witnessed an extreme politicisation of immigration in the several EU Member States. A new wave of right-wing/far-right political groups have emerged in the past five years and their support is growing and broadening at a rapid pace. Support for these groups and parties has increased alongside their ability to influence the position of center-right parties.
Far-right parties are still lagging behind in terms of electoral success in national, parliamentary level election results. Nevertheless, right-leaning mainstream parties have shifted further to the right and use anti-migrant, racist and xenophobic statements to build their support base in several EU countries.
The increase in migrants entering Europe during the period 2015/2016 has revealed a crisis in the policies and practices of the EU and the many EU Member States. The state of crisis has enabled policymakers to justify policy decisions that have been somewhat exclusionary and at times resulted in the discrimination of non-white migrants. Short-term policy making to manage migration has seen walls and fences built, the lowering of humanitarian standards and extreme security measures; all the more possible in response to this so-called crisis.
If this trend continues, the current racism and discrimination that migrants face will most likely continue and increase. To curb the trend, EU Member States need to ensure that migration policies put migrants’ interests and concerns at the heart of the discussions, which should be based on human rights, and that integration measures are designed to combat direct and structural discrimination faced by migrants and ensure real inclusion and participation of migrants in European society.
Which country has the highest rate of racist attacks?
It is difficult to give precise figures in this regard as data collection on racist attacks varies from one EU country to another. There is also a significant amount of under-reporting of racist crimes, which means the available data is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’. According to available official data on racist crimes in general in 2015 (not specifically targeting migrants), the UK has the highest rate, but this is not necessarily representative as their data collection mechanisms are much more comprehensive than other EU countries – see data here. On racist attacks targeting migrants specifically, it is also difficult to establish a ranking due to lack of data.