Refugees in a tent | Photo credit: Press Association
A meeting heard that Denmark, Hungary and Sweden have launched official adverts either at home or abroad to “make it as obvious as possible” that certain migrants are not welcome.
Support for far-right parties and groups in several countries is growing and they are “setting the tone” of the debate on immigration, particularly related to Muslim migrants, it was said.
The hearing was organised by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) which issued its report on racism and discrimination against migrants in Europe.
The ENAR report states that in Germany, 1031 right-wing motivated crimes targeting asylum accommodation were registered in 2015 and 988 in 2016, an increase up from 199 crimes in 2014.
In Finland, the Interior Ministry reported 47 attacks against reception centres in 2015.
In the UK, in the 38 days after the EU referendum, there were more than 2300 recorded race-hate offences in London, compared with 1400 in the 38 days before the vote.
In Sweden, the Kantor Centre recorded 43 arson attacks on asylum centres in 2015.
In Greece, the Racist Violence Recording Network reported 75 racist incidents targeting immigrants and refugees in 2015 - a 60 per cent increase compared to 2014.
In Slovenia, 55 per cent of the cases of hate speech collected by Spletno oko, an internet-based contact point, were directed at refugees.
The report says rising support for parties like Front National in France is the result of “anti-migrant discourses (and policies) being seen as acceptable and mainstreamed across the political spectrum.”
The report goes on, “The number of demonstrations and protests show how effective far-right groups have been in spreading their version of Islamophobic and anti-migrant hate across Europe.
“Violent attacks are reportedly taking place before and following anti-migrant demonstrations.”
However, in most member states the ENAR report adds that there were also citizens-driven initiative such as the ‘refugees welcome’ marches and counter-protests.
The report says, “Mainstream media have been instrumented to spread hatred and racism. In many member states, media outlets have done little more than reproduce the political discourse that frames refugees as a threat, contributing to shifting public opinion on this issue.
“Social media is becoming increasingly crucial in forming opinions about migrants and there has been a growing dissemination of fake ethnicity-related news about migrants with alarming and sensationalist headlines.”
One of the speakers, Italian Socialist MEP Cécile Kyenge, said, “Every person arriving on European soil is entitled to a life project not a detention centre.
“Cultural change is necessary to counter discrimination against migrants. It is not accurate to speak of refugee ‘crisis’; it is rather an inability of EU to manage migration.”
She added, “There is an instrumentalisation of the issue by far right/populist movements resulting in anti-migrants actions.”
Kyenge said, “Racism can never be an instrument of political campaign but media coverage exacerbates this anti-migrant feeling.”
The deputy told the hearing, “We need a global approach to fight racism. We need to understand the importance of education to promote change. Diversity should be included at every level of society.”
The hearing heard that new counter-terrorism measures in some countries “disproportionately” affect migrants and there is an overall “climate of suspicion” against Muslim migrants.
One example cited was Hungary where, it was said, a Syrian national who lived in Cyprus for 10 years and had an EU residency permit, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Hungarian court for throwing stones at the police in an attempt to help his parents cross the border, which was considered an act of terror.
The report said, “In Austria, France, Belgium, Spain and the UK, foreign nationals and Muslim migrants are increasingly reported to the police or checked by the police due to alleged ‘suspicious behaviour’ or suspicion of radicalisation.”