Anti-migrant debate and focus on borders causing racist violence, warns report

Irish migrants fear reporting crimes to gardaí, racism group finds

The portrayal of migrants as a risk to security and anti-migrant political debate are contributing to a rise in racist violence and speech across Europe, a report into racism across the continent has warned.

Migrants arriving on European shores are increasingly at risk of ethnic profiling and discriminatory policing while references to asylum seekers as “criminal, scroungers and rapers” are becoming normalised, research by the European Network Against Racism (Enar) shows.

The research, based on data from 26 EU member states, warns that short term policies introduced to deal with the steady stream of people arriving in Europe has led to walls and fences and a lowering of humanitarian standards with racist attacks on the rise. It adds that many African migrants who are seeking humanitarian protection in Europe are being framed by politicians and the media as economic and illegal immigrants rather than human beings seeking asylum.

The network warns that the rise of far-right parties and the rhetoric of movements such as Pegida in Germany is normalising this negative portrayal of immigrants, particularly Muslims.


In Ireland, researchers found that migrants prefer to keep their heads below the parapet and avoid reporting crimes to gardaí for fear of being considered a "troublemaker".

The network criticised the Irish Government for failing to adopt the EU Victims Directive into national law which requires that all victims of crime be properly informed of how to make a complaint, irrespective of their residence status. The report added that the State’s failure to introduce hate crime legislation was creating even more barriers for refugees and asylum seekers.

“We need to protect the people who come here and put in place all the safeguards necessary to ensure people can live full lives free from racism,” said director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland Edel McGinley. “We live in a diverse and multicultural society but the issue of racism is bubbling under the surface in Ireland.”

Ms McGinley said the jump in property prices and lack of housing available was also contributing to a culture of discrimination with some landlords reportedly choosing to rent homes to Irish nationals over migrants or refugees.

“We see people turning up to rent places and they’re told it’s gone. They feel it’s discrimination but can’t prove it.”

Meanwhile, in Finland, police and border guards have been observed targeting "non-Finnish looking people" while in Italy, Nigerians are prevented from formally claiming asylum in hotspots and instead are directly issued a formal "refusal order", warns Enar.

The report found Estonia has the highest number of migrants from outside the EU when compared to the nation's population. Some 13.27 per cent of people in Estonia come from outside the EU, followed by 11.75 per cent in Latvia and 11.63 per cent in Sweden. Just over 5 per cent of the Irish population is made up of non-EU migrants, below the EU average.

The European Union granted asylum to more than twice as many people in 2016 as it did the previous year with a total of 710,4000 offered protection across the EU.

The Irish State offered 645 people refugee status while 140 people were offered subsidiary protection. Another 365 refugees were resettled in the Irish State through the UNHCR.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast