Germany ‘not doing enough to fight racism’ as country sees rise in reported discrimination cases

A rising number of people say they are experiencing racism in Germany, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency has found.

Germany 'not doing enough to fight racism' as country sees rise in reported discrimination cases
An anti racism demo held in Stuttgart on June 6th 2020. Photo: DPA

Almost 1,200 cases of racial discrimination were reported in Germany to the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes) last year.

In its annual report, the agency found that in 2019, a total of 1,176 people turned to counselling services because they “felt discriminated against on the basis of their ethnic origin” in work or in their everyday lives, the agency said.

It’s an increase of 10 percent compared to the previous year. 

Among the complaints, people reported racist incidents when trying to find accommodation, and in the workplace. 

“The number of requests for advice on racial discrimination is growing disproportionately,” said the provisional head of the Anti-discrimination Agency Bernhard Franke, reported Spiegel on Tuesday June 9th.

“They have more than doubled since 2015. This shows us quite clearly: Germany is not doing enough to combat racism.”

READ ALSO: Do internationals in Germany face discrimination in the workplace?

Rise in overall number of cases

According to the report, the Anti-Discrimination Agency's counselling team provided support in 2019 in a total of 3,580 cases to people who experienced disadvantages because of their appearance, gender, religion or other factors. 

Overall the total number of counselling sessions increased by 3.6 percent compared to the previous year. In 2018, the figure was 3,455.

Cases of racism accounted for around a third of all inquiries to the independent agency.

Meanwhile, 29 percent of the complaints were about discrimination on the basis of sex. This was followed by discrimination on grounds of disability, age, religion, sexual identity and beliefs.

Although there is a ban on discrimination in Germany through the General Equal Treatment Act, in practice people find it difficult to enforce their rights, Franke said.

Employees at the Anti-Discrimination Agency support those affected in enforcing their rights, obtaining statements from the opposing party and also mediating amicable settlements.

'Active prevention against racism'

The report comes days after anti-racism demos were held across Germany and the world in the wake the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody on May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


The federal agency demanded more action to target racism in German authorities.

States should take discrimination by authorities and police more seriously and create their own anti-discrimination offices, Franke said. “The only effective protection against discrimination is active prevention against racism and right-wing extremism,” he added.

In German daily Die Welt, Franke discussed problems including racial profiling – the act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of assumed characteristics or behaviour of a racial or ethnic group, rather than on individual suspicion.

He called for the establishment of ombudsman offices in the police force for victims of these incidents in all federal states. 

READ ALSO: 'Language is a huge barrier': What it's like for foreign residents working in Germany

These kinds of incidents would be reported much more frequently if the people affected had a targeted contact point for this purpose, said Franke.

Berlin became the first German state to pass its own anti-discrimination law last week. The law is aimed at stopping public authorities, including police, from discriminating based on factors such as skin colour, gender, background, religion, physical or mental disability, worldview, age, sexual identity or even language skills.

Racism in Germany in the spotlight

The global anti-racist movement and Black Lives Matter protests have prompted debates about Germany and racism.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag that “we should not pretend that racism is just a US problem”.

“There are 30,000 right-wing extremists living in Germany. In our country, too, there are racist attacks, black people are discriminated against, Jews have their Kippa torn off. First of all, we have to sweep around our own front door. Racism kills – not only in the USA.”

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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.