End anti-Roma racism: German Amnesty boss

Amnesty International released on Tuesday a damning report on Europe's attitude towards its Roma community. The head of the charity's German branch, Selmin Caliskan, said she believed that governments allowed racism to happen.

End anti-Roma racism: German Amnesty boss
Children throw flowers into a Berlin canal on international Roma and Sinti day. Photo: DPA

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Instead of working to abolish racism, statements from even high ranking politicians seem to “fuel the belief that Roma people are responsible for their own exclusion,” the Amnesty director said.

“The EU and its member states have to finally put an end to racially-motivated attacks against members of the Roma community,” Caliskan said in a statement on Tuesday.

The stern words followed an Amnesty International report in which it was revealed that many of Europe’s 10-12 million Roma are at increased risk of racist violence and discrimination. The organisation believes not enough is being done by governments to protect them.

The problem was not a new one, she said. Instead, the “current situation can be traced back to years of disrespecting the rights of this large European minority.” Today, many countries blame Roma for a rise in petty crime.

“Excluded from access to essential services and unable to get redress for human rights violations, many Roma feel abandoned,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Caliskan added, “It's totally unacceptable that Roma people are living in constant fear of violent attacks in many places across Europe.” And that this was perpetuated “by the passive behaviour of governments, which quietly accept systematic discrimination against Roma people”

The Amnesty report – titled “Europe: “We ask for justice”: Europe’s failure to protect Roma from racist violence” – uses incidents from the Czech Republic, France and Greece, where excessive violence has been reported against members of the Roma community. The rest of Europe was not exempt, though.

Amnesty has, following the report's release, called on the EU commission to stress to states' police to investigate incidents involving Roma people more seriously. All too frequently will police not look into suspected racial motivation, it said.

The Roma, a traditionally nomadic people whose ancestors left India centuries ago, have long suffered from discrimination. They were killed in their hundreds of thousands by the Nazis during World War II, alongside Jews and homosexuals.

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Black people in Germany face ‘widespread’ racism, survey finds

In the Afrocensus, a first-of-its-kind survey charting the lived experiences of black people in Germany, the vast majority revealed they experienced 'extensive' discrimination in almost all aspects of public life.

Dr Karamba Diaby
Dr Karamba Diaby, an SPD politician and anti-racism advocate, carries out voluntary work in his constituency of Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“The results of the Afrocensus indicate that anti-Black racism is widespread in Germany and anchored in institutions,” the authors of the new report said in a press release on Tuesday. “There is no area of life in which discrimination and racism are not extensive problems.”

Though the overwhelming majority of respondents said they had experienced discrimination at least ‘sometimes’ in almost all areas of life, housing was the area where they said they were discriminated against most often.

Just two percent of respondents to the Afrocensus said they had ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ experienced racism in the housing market, compared to more than 90 percent who said they had experienced it ‘often’ or ‘very often’.

READ ALSO: ‘Black lives need to matter in Germany’ New project to uncover racism in everyday life

Experiences with police and security personnel also counted among areas of life where racism was particularly prevalent: 88 percent of respondents had experienced discrimination from security staff ‘often’ or ‘very often’, while around 85 percent had had the same experience with police.

More than 85 percent had also experienced racism in their education or in the workplace ‘often’ or ‘very often’ in Germany. One in seven had lost their job during the Covid crisis. 

According to the report, 90 percent of respondents had also experienced having their hair grabbed, while more than half (56 percent) had been stopped by the police or asked for drugs by strangers.

Meanwhile, 80 percent said people had made comments about the colour of their skin or sexualised comments about their race on dating apps. A vast majority – 90 percent – also revealed they hadn’t been believed when they’d spoken out about racism in the past, or that people had said they were “too sensitive”. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: My experiences of everyday racism in Germany

In spite of widespread discrimination, almost half (47 percent) of the respondents were engaged and active in their community – mostly carrying out some form of social or voluntary work.

First of its kind

Based on wide-ranging data, the findings paint a vivid and concerning picture of what life is like for the one million or so black people living in Germany today.

To produce the report, researchers from Berlin-based Black community group Each One Teach One and Citizens for Europe conducted an extended survey of 6,000 black people from the Africans and Afrodiasporic community to try and discover more about on the everyday lives and experiences of this group. The survey was carried out between July and September 2020. 

It represents one of the first attempts to gather a wealth of quantitative data on this subject, and as such offers some of the first truly scientific insights into anti-Black racism in modern Germany.

“With the Afrocensus, we have succeeded in doing exactly what has long been demanded within the black community for a long time: making the realities of our lives visible within the framework of qualitative, but above all quantitative research,” Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana und Dr. Karamba Diaby wrote in a foreword to the report. 

Diaby, a high-profile politician within the centre-left SPD party, was one of only two Afro-German politicians in parliament when he first took his seat in 2013. He has since become known for promoting political engagement and empowerment within the migrant and black community. 

In January 2020, an unknown gunman fired shots through the window of his constituency office in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, in a suspected racially motivated attack. 

READ ALSO: How people with migrant backgrounds remain underrepresented in German politics

Since the Second World War, Germany has avoided gathering data that allows people to be traced by ethnicity as a means of protecting persecuted groups.

However, critics say this approach only works to make the issues faced by these groups invisible. 

Writing on Twitter, Daniel Gyamerah, Division Lead at Citizens For Europe, called for an “action plan for tackling anti-Black racism and for empowering black, African and Afrodiasporic people” and the establishment of advice centres for people facing racism and discrimination.

More research into the intersectional experience of black people in Germany is needed, he added.