Anti-racist action key to building strong society, Europe told

European countries risk losing a rich pool of economic talent unless they learn to manage diversity, the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has warned in its annual report.

Welfare cuts, diminished job opportunities and a consequent rise in intolerance towards both immigrant groups and older historical minorities are worrying trends emerging from ECRI’s country by country visits during 2011, the report reveals.  

The report shows that xenophobic rhetoric is now part of mainstream debate and extremists are increasingly using social media to channel their views, whilst discrimination against the Roma continues to worsen.

The report regrets that some countries failed to manage the influx of migrants and asylum seekers in 2011, with excessively rapid returns and poor reception conditions.

It calls on European governments to bolster the capacity of national human rights bodies rather than using the economic crisis as a reason to cut back their resources.

The newly elected ECRI chair, Jenö Kaltenbach, said governments needed to learn that anti-racist action was key to building a strong society. “It is a mistake to consider that the fight against racism and intolerance is only of interest to vulnerable groups. A fairer society is of benefit to all. Countering widespread negative stereotypes is the strategy to follow. Cultural richness and diversity has benefited Europe’s societies throughout history; resistance to racism is essential to preserve Europe’s future,” he said.

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