Strasbourg, 14.06.2005 – The Council of Europe’s expert body on combating racism, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), today released five new reports examining racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in Albania, Croatia, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. ECRI recognises that positive developments have occurred in all five of these Council of Europe member countries. At the same time, however, the reports detail continuing grounds for concern for the Commission:
In Albania, a “National Strategy for the Improvement of Living Conditions of the Roma” has been developed that aims to eliminate discrimination towards Roma in different fields of life. However, ECRI is of the opinion that there have been few detectable improvements in the situation of Roma and Egyptians who suffer from a situation of particular marginalisation and neglect in Albanian society. The disproportionate number of Roma and Egyptian children who are victims of trafficking is also a problem of particular concern to ECRI.
In Croatia, a Commission of Experts Working on Combating Discrimination began its work in 2004 and has prepared a national strategy against all forms of discrimination. But the problems surrounding the acquisition of nationality encountered by persons of non-Croatian origin who have lived in the country for a long time have not yet been fully resolved. Substantial progress remains to be made concerning the return of refugees and displaced persons, especially in the matter of housing.
In Poland, some measures have been taken in favour of the cultural and linguistic rights of national and ethnic minorities. However, there is still no comprehensive body of civil and administrative legislation prohibiting discrimination in all fields of life. ECRI is concerned that cases of racial hatred are rarely investigated and prosecuted while publications containing racist, and particularly antisemitic material are still available on the market.
In Sweden, a system to monitor progress towards the achievement of integration objectives has been put in place. But the situation of de facto segregation in residential areas and schools still runs counter to efforts to promote an integrated society. The active presence of racist organisations in Sweden and their activities, including the widespread dissemination of racist propaganda, notably through the Internet, are still of concern to ECRI.
In the United Kingdom, a strategy has been launched to promote community cohesion and race equality throughout the country. But, in spite of initiatives taken, members of ethnic and religious minority groups continue to experience racism and discrimination. Asylum seekers and refugees are particularly vulnerable to those phenomena, partly as a result of changes in asylum policies and of the tone of the debate around the adoption of such changes.
These new reports form part of a third monitoring cycle of Council of Europe member states’ laws, policies and practices aimed at combating racism. ECRI’s country-specific reports are available in English, French and the national language of the country concerned at http://www.coe.int/ecri. They cover all member states on an equal footing, from the perspective of protecting human rights. They examine whether ECRI’s main recommendations from previous reports have been followed and, if so, to what degree of success and effectiveness.