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

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

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.

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

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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.

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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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