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Anti-racism day: Afrophobia is still rife in Europe and beyond, warns general rapporteur

“On 21 March 1960, 69 people were killed by police forces in Sharpeville, South Africa, while peacefully protesting against apartheid laws. Sixty years later, and after decades of an ever-growing body of anti-discriminatory legislation and policies, Afrophobia, or racism against people of African descent, is still rife in Europe and beyond,” said Momodou Malcolm Jallow (Sweden, UEL), the General Rapporteur on combating racism and intolerance, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March).

“Europe is facing an upsurge in racist crimes, encompassing all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hate. We continue to witness an increase in hate crimes against migrants, an increase and normalisation of Islamophobia, Afrophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyism and homophobia. A worrying trend, that should be of urgent concern, is the intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethno-centrism that has emerged and has, to a significant extent, had an impact on mainstream political discourse.

From the neo-Nazi terrorist attacks in Germany, to the Nordic resistance movement in Sweden, racism has become normalised and is perpetuated not only by populist and extremist groups but increasingly across the political spectrum. The most effective way of preventing racism and intolerance is to strengthen our adherence to the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and to promote a model of society that embraces diversity and respects human dignity.

As we remember the tragic and racist events in Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960, we must recognise the current socio-economic inequalities, acts of hatred and racism, negative stereotyping, social exclusion and other forms of discrimination that people of African descent and black Europeans continue to experience. Alongside other vulnerable groups such as migrants, refugees and religious, ethnic and gender minorities, they are often exposed to multiple forms of discrimination, which highlights the importance of an intersectional approach.

The severe challenges that people of African descent and black Europeans face in Europe call for urgent, adequate and specific measures.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and on the occasion of the mid-term review of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) undertaken by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, I call on European leaders, policy-makers and legislators to take action against racism and intolerance in all its manifestations, and to address Afrophobia and all other forms of racism in European societies through adequate and prompt measures.

They should ensure that anti-discrimination policies and legislation are consistently and effectively implemented, paying particular attention to countering hate speech and hate crime. Hence, I call on governments to step up their efforts to prevent and counter extremism and neo-Nazism; and to actively implement counter-measures to detect, record and prosecute hate speech at all levels of society.

National Action Plans on combating racism and aiming at protecting vulnerable communities should be put in place: in the light of the current upsurge of extremist and racist political parties, equality, democracy, human rights and the rule of law should be promoted and new provisions on the use of public financing of political parties should be introduced.

Equality bodies and civil society organisations play a crucial role in raising awareness and combating racism and should therefore be empowered, consulted and supported.”