were to begin conducting mass searches of all men who go to bars in the evenings, just because most drug-dealers are men? Do we really want some Big Brother randomly checking up on us? In order to shed some light on the information I had collected from my African and Roma sources, I met with the chiefs of the Guard Force of the National Police Service. I contacted them because the police officers we see patrolling the city centre and other neighbourhoods are employees of that division. The words ·racism” and ·discrimination” provoked an instantaneous reaction in my interviewees. Even though I wasn’t accusing anyone of this, I was informed that the police are not racists and that they do not discriminate. However, I was not able to find out how the police know this, since the administration doesn’t keep any data on who the police officers stop for ID inspection, how many of them are taken in to the police station for identity verification, nor what ethnic or racial groups they belong to. In order to prevent discriminatory and racist practices, police officers in other countries must register each instance in which they stop someone, including noting the ethnicity of the person(s) they stop. The person receives a copy of this record, and there is thus a guarantee that the inspections are not arbitrary. Personal data such as the person’s name and address are not recorded, because the aim is not to collect personal information but rather statistical information about the police officer’s activity. On the basis of this information, both the police administration and society at large are able to get an idea of how the patrol officers conduct their work. This is not done here, thus establishing conditions not only for corruption, but also for discriminatory attitudes in stopping and checking citizens. On 9 December 2004, the House of Lords sued the British government for racial discrimination against a Czech citizen of Roma descent. The reason for this was the British immigration authorities’ systematic practice of stopping Roma travelling to England at the Prague airport. The immigration officials were using this tactic in an attempt to prevent any eventual filing of asylum claims. The statistical evidence in this case showed that the odds of a passenger of Roma origin being stopped from travelling to England were 400 times greater than that for passengers of non-Roma origin. As in the instances discussed in this article of ID inspections in the street, this case dealt with an instance of indirect discrimination. This is what we call discrimination that does not exist in the law itself, but the law is enforced by the authorities in a discriminatory way. The decision of the highest court in Great Britain showed that the authorities do not have unlimited discretion with regard to existing legislation and the application thereof, and are also responsible for instances of indirect discrimination. This is, in fact, also stated in our Act for Protection from Discrimination.
Tariffs for coloured people Antoine MAKITOU Some institutions - more specifically, the police - can provoke serious outbursts of violence, even when their methods are not openly racist. The results of an official study* reveal that the behaviour of law enforcement officials often increases ethnic and social tension. Incidents that end up in violence, with racism standing out as a key factor, are not infrequent. A large part of the data in the report ·CrossBorder Migration and Human Rights Violations” show that racial discrimination, both in the inspection of identity documents by police and in hiring and housing policies, is widespread. In 50 interviews conducted amongst African immigrants, 85% of them claimed to have been the target of xenophobic statements and/or actions by the police. About 75% of those surveyed admitted that police officers had said to them, while checking their identity documents, ·You are scum, and it’s time you return to the jungle.” Almost all of those surveyed share the opinion that their only major problem in Bulgaria is the attitude of the police, above all towards black immigrants. Human rights activists have documented the case of an African refugee who filed a complaint at a regional police station against skinheads who had nearly beaten him to death. In response to his complaint, the police sent skinheads to him, who told him, ·Don’t be surprised by anything you see here or anything that happens to you - it won’t be an accident!” Furthermore, 75% of those interviewed admitted to having been attacked by skinheads, some of them two or three times, and said their attempts to ask for help and cooperation from the police had been cut off. They had often heard statements as ·What are you doing in our country?”, or other expressions of xenophobia. The truth is that there is no state or official institution on earth that admits to having racism or xenophobia. So no matter how much one denies the existence of prejudice and discrimination against immigrants - and especially Africans - the facts demonstrate that the actions of the police are precisely of that nature: prejudiced and discriminatory. Law enforcement officials do not stop foreigners in order to verify their ID documents, but rather because they know that’s how they can earn their daily fee! It’s got to the point where an officer looks disappointed when a foreigner has the proper documents (·No way anyone can get you, eh...”). According to those surveyed, the ·fine” for not having the proper documents ranges between 10 to 20 euros or more. In a modern democratic society, police officers should have a good understanding of the nature of prejudice and discrimination and the ways in which they are detrimental to the achievement of the common goal - that of fair and equitable service to all. * The study ·Cross-Border Migration and Human Rights Violations” was conducted by the Open Society Foundation in cooperation with the BHC Refugees and Migrants Legal Protection Programme in 2004.
Published on Mar 17, 2011