Edition 1497
20 October 2018
Edition: 1497

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EU report accuses Portuguese police of being tolerant of racism

by Brendan de Beer, in News · 04-10-2018 09:31:00 · 0 Comments

In a report on Portugal published this week, the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has welcomed significant progress in LGBT rights and in the education of pupils of migrant origin.

EU report accuses Portuguese police of being tolerant of racism

However, the report was critical of police and continued intolerance of Roma communities. The report comes just a few weeks after a protest was staged in downtown Lisbon against continued racism in Portugal. The Portuguese Home Affairs Inspectorate General meanwhile refuted these claims and saying the “insinuations” contained in the report were “unfounded.”
The ECRI has this week expressed concern about allegations of racist violence committed by a number of police officers and regrets the slow progress in the integration of Roma, notably the alarmingly high school drop-out rates.
The report highlights that same-sex couples had access to joint adoption and assisted reproduction in 2016, and that transgender persons no longer need a medical certificate to obtain gender-recognition or change their first name.
School results of pupils of migrant origin have significantly improved and their early school drop-out rate has in general reduced. The authorities are striving to legalise the situation of pupils and their parents without residence permits.
Other positive developments include Portugal’s ratification of Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, its new anti-discrimination law and investigative power given to the High Commission on Migrations (ACM).
The report further notes that in Portugal politicians seldom make racist, homophobic or transphobic comments and that these are publicly condemned.
The report adds that racist violence is uncommon and the authorities have reacted strongly against it in a number of cases.
Another welcome step is that in 2017 the President of the Republic made a statement recognising injustices committed during the era of slavery.
ECRI however said it was concerned that no authority has systematically investigated the grave accusations of racist violence committed by a number of police officers, leading to a lack of trust in the police, in particular among people of African origin.
The report devotes particular attention to the case of 18 police officers indicted for torture and other offences against six black victims in 2015 and recommends that an independent body investigates allegations of police abuse and racism.
The report concludes that some of the most important objectives of the 2013 national strategy for the integration of Roma have not been achieved. Around 90 percent of Roma children leave school early compared to 14 percent of the overall population, while Roma continue to suffer high levels of unemployment, often live in precarious housing conditions and are threatened by forced evictions. People of African descent face similar problems.
Whilst ECRI praises the co-operation between the police, the equality body and civil society to investigate hate speech, it also stresses that the definition of hate speech is too narrow and the vast majority of hate messages are not reported or prosecuted.
ECRI has asked Portugal to ensure there are no cases of illegal forced evictions and that legal evictions comply with international standards, while calling on officials in Portugal to work towards the aim that all Roma children rigorously attend compulsory schooling up to the age of 18 years.
This, however follows a protest last month in Lisbon, in which dozens of people took to the streets against racism in Portugal.
Lúcia Furtado, of the DJASS Association for African-descendents, one of the various associations that organised the protest, said: “Portugal is a racist country; it has always been a racist country. Remember that in 2015 we had young people who were beaten at the Alfragide police station and the trial is still ongoing. Racism exists at institutional, structural and personal-levels”.
Left Bloc MP Isabel Pires was also present at the gathering because, she said, “in Portugal there is a problem with racism and it is time to talk about it”.
“There is institutionalised racism, such as cases of police violence or unequal access to health, for example”, she said, reiterating “the problem exists and needs to be addressed, acknowledged and debated, and there must be proposals to tackle it”.
According to the Left Bloc, despite racism being a crime, it is not being punished as such and, said Isabel Pires, “there are often cases of police violence, street and workplace harassment that remain unpunished”.
The PCP communist party also lent its support to the protest, represented by MP Rita Rato, who said “anti-racist and anti-discrimination struggles are inseparable from the quest for a fairer country”.
“Portugal retains traces of institutionalised and non-institutionalised racism and we must fight against it, especially when fascist and neofascist forces are growing in our country and throughout Europe”, she reflected.
Following the unsavoury incidents of three years ago at the Alfragide police station, the Left Bloc tabled a proposal to declare racism a crime, following claims of police brutality in the Cova da Moura neighbourhood, whose inhabitants are mostly black.
An independent organisation with consultancy powers at the UN has also since alleged that 40 youths died between 2000 and 2010 during police action in Portugal.
At the time, in a statement issued by the Left Bloc, the party said it was commonplace “to hear in these neighbourhoods that blacks are to be eliminated.”
The Left Bloc also called for tighter evaluation of police forces who they said should be subjected to anti-racist training on the ground, a feature which the party says should form part of anti-racism laws.
Jakilson Pereira, representing Plataforma Gueto, lamented at the time the problems that exist between communities and the police, and accused law enforcement of exhibiting what he termed “generalised violent behaviour.”
He argued that “while the community does not want to stand in the way of police work, it demands respect, and called on society to take note that the rule of law is often suspended in these areas.”
Amnesty International earlier this year released a report in which it was critical of Portugal and of the alleged ill-treatment of prisoners and of inadequate prison conditions.
It added that discrimination against Roma communities continued unabated.
Portugal was also singled out for its alleged continued failure to ensure that hate crimes are prohibited in law, and has not created a national data collection system for hate crimes.

 

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Edition 1497
20 October 2018
Edition: 1497

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

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