Negative impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable groups, racism in the police, intimidation of LGBTI people: main trends from ECRI’s annual report

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The continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic which has further marginalized vulnerable groups, the persistent problem of racism in the police force and the rise of anti-LGBTI public discourse were the main trends in 2021, the Council Commission said. of Europe against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its annual report published today.

The Covid-19 pandemic which continued in 2021 has led to an increased digitization of services (including in education, in the health sector or in the issuance of residence or work permits), and further marginalized vulnerable groups who were unable to use digital technologies. People with a migrant background were often overrepresented in the service sector where remote work and telecommuting were not possible; and therefore were at risk of greater exposure to the virus. In addition, the hotel, restaurant, entertainment and tourism sector, as well as the informal economy where many immigrants are employed, have been hard hit by the prolonged shutdowns and general economic downturn which has resulted. On the positive side, the important role of migrant workers in the health sector and other vital public services has been further emphasized in some countries.

In the field of education, the various Covid-related restrictions imposed on schools had a negative impact on children who were already facing the most difficulties, such as migrant children and Roma: online learning was often difficult in due to the lack of suitable space, equipment and internet. link. While in some countries the authorities have taken measures to help disadvantaged children catch up in school, this was not the case in all Council of Europe member states. Many adults have also been affected by the disruption of education services, especially recently arrived migrants enrolled in integration and language courses.

Racism in policing remained an issue in a number of countries, particularly in the context of the application of pandemic-related restrictions (curfews, lockdowns). ECRI’s report refers in particular to racial profiling in stop and search activities, the use of racist language and the excessive use of force against individuals, which not only targeted individual victims, but stigmatized communities as a whole. The victims of such practices often felt insufficiently supported by the authorities. At the same time, some Member States have taken steps to address these issues, including through independent complaints mechanisms and better police training, and by trying to diversify police forces.

While the situation for LGBTI people and their communities has continued to vary widely across the continent, the Covid-19 crisis has also had an impact. Young LGBTI people who were still residing with their parents were often exposed to disrespect and intimidation. Individual psychosocial counseling offered by NGOs has been limited. In general, several states have seen strong political rhetoric against perceived “LGBTI ideology” or amplified “gender ideology” in the media and in general public discourse. These attitudes have taken root with the adoption of laws specifically targeting LGBTI people and their rights or the dissemination of information on homosexuality and gender identity in institutions and public places, such as schools and advertising. . Condemnations of such attacks and serious instances of clear public counter-narratives by senior officials continue to be rare.

On the occasion of the publication of the annual report for 2021, ECRI’s President, Maria Daniella Marouda, said that the danger of ultra-nationalist political statements and hate speech should never be underestimated. “It was the ultra-nationalist political discourse and propaganda that preceded and accompanied the ongoing aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which began in February 2022 and has caused immense suffering for the Ukrainian people. “, she pointed out. “ECRI commends the authorities, equality bodies and civil society actors in Council of Europe member states who offer protection to people fleeing Ukraine by helping them to ensure access their rights, such as their rights to health care, social protection, housing, education. and employment. He hopes that reports of unjustified differential treatment between Roma and people of African or Asian descent from Ukraine will be effectively investigated and that the authorities will ensure that there is no There is no discrimination against people who should receive protection and assistance. All people fleeing war and other emergencies, regardless of national or ethnic origin, citizenship, skin color, religion, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, should see each other quickly offer adequate protection, she concluded.

The military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine led the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to end the 26-year membership of the Russian Federation in the Organization on March 16, 2022. This decision also ended ECRI’s monitoring work on racism and intolerance. in the Russian Federation.

The annual report in brief

Interview with Ms Maria Daniella Marouda, President of ECRI on ECRI’s 2021 Annual Report
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