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“We must talk about Afrophobia to prevent it becoming commonplace”

“While some types of ‘neo-racism’ based on supposedly cultural grounds do exist in Europe, traditional racism based on skin colour has never disappeared from our societies”, said Milena Santerini (Italy, SOC), co-ordinator of the PACE No Hate Parliamentary Alliance, at the opening in Paris of a hearing on violence and discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin.

Cécile Kyenge, member of the European Parliament, Co-president of ARDI (European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup) and Chair of ARDI’s working group on Afrophobia, called on the participants to speak out against Afrophobia.

“We must talk about it, because the problem is being trivialised today in our societies with the aim of playing down its importance and gravity”. According to Ms Kyenge, it manifests itself most often in daily life, through the confirmation of stereotypes. “I was a victim myself as a black woman and doctor, when I was looking to rent a flat and people would ask me ‘where’s the doctor?’ and as a black woman and minister, when they would ask ‘why do you have that job?’ Now, more than ever before, anti-black racism must be recognised and combated. We need more education, greater efforts in terms of memory and better understanding of history. And we must all play our part,” she said in conclusion.

Momodou Malcolm Jallow, Vice-Chair of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), member of the City Council of Malmö (Sweden) and Chair of the Pan-African Movement for Justice, made similar comments.

“Many people claim not to know that the problem really exists, which prevents the adoption of appropriate, effective policies to combat it”, he said. Only knowledge of the actual situation based on objective statistics would make it possible to implement effective policies. In Europe, blacks suffer discrimination in access to healthcare, housing and employment, and would often be victims of police repression or hate crimes. “To combat the problem, we must acknowledge it, talk about it and draw up policies at European level. The 15 million blacks in Europe and their rights must be respected,” he added.

Pham Huu Uyen, member of the Czech Republic’s Government Council for National Minorities, painted a much more optimistic picture of the situation of the Vietnamese minority in the Czech Republic, who are thought to number some 70 000. After difficult years for the generation who arrived in Czechoslovakia before the 1990s, today’s generation were integrating well. “The challenge now is gaining recognition as a national minority, as they do not currently have that status under Czech law,” he said in conclusion.