Hate crimes against minorities are an unfortunate everyday reality in Europe. Groups that are at risk the most in the region are asylum seekers, migrants, refugees, as well as Jews, Muslims and Gypsies, as stated in the report of Minority Rights Group International.
In MRG’s report on the state of world minority groups and indigenous peoples for 2014, surveys were carried out in Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK.
MRG Policy and Communications Director Carl Soderberg says hate crimes and hate in general are a common thing experienced by minorities in all parts of Europe. ‘The lack of involvement of European authorities [in such crimes] is viewed by perpetrators as green light to continue them’.
Migrants, ethnic and religious minorities were blamed for government austerity measures employed by many countries and the financial crisis of 2008 in general. This had caused an increase in the level of hate and violence towards minorities. Thanks to rhetoric aimed against immigrants, Gypsies and Jews, many right-wing political groups in countries like Greece and Hungary have managed to secure spots in national parliaments. Some of these right-wing parties are closely related to paramilitary groups and militants, like the Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary. Some far-right parties have also accomplished a lot during the recent European Parliament elections. This applies to France in particular, as mentioned in the report.
Researchers have also concluded that violent hate crimes against migrants from Northern Caucasus, Central Asia and Africa are only encouraged by nationalists in political and public discussions in Russia and Ukraine.
Signs of xenophobia have recently been surfacing in Bulgaria as well, where the arrival of thousands of refugees from Syria has created new targets for far-right groups and extremists. Minority communities of Gypsies and ethnic Turks in Bulgaria have long been suffering from discrimination and marginalization, which has now grown into open acts of violence in the country.
It is mentioned in the report that the main problem is that many victims feel they have no one to turn to for help. Although hate crimes more often take place out in streets or individual attacks, they are largely encouraged by discriminating policies employed by the government. For example, since 2011, it is forbidden for women to wear veils that cover the whole face in public places in France. Women who continue to wear them are subjected to harassment by other people and are often. There have also been cases when investigations of hate crimes against minorities were not properly carried out or even turned against those who required protection in Hungary.
It is especially tragic that the high level of violence, harassment and verbal hate throughout Europe clearly demonstrates that all governments should address these matters more seriously, as noted by authors. The lack of action in areas like information compilation, regular reports about certain processes and publicity puts hate in a somewhat legitimized position. Only four European countries regularly compile and publish information.
According to Soderberg, the most effective method of combating hate is talking about it as much as possible.
Internet and social media offer new ways of expressing hate. People who are part of minority communities and who have ended up in attention of society in areas like politics, media or sports also become new targets for hate crimes in social media. These tools, however, can be used both ways.