Hate Crimes in Europe – Raise awareness, support the victims!

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Bias motivated crimes, or Hate Crimes, are a widespread problem in Europe. Thousands of people are intimidated, injured or even killed in Europe every year because of the racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic etc. attitudes of the offenders. In 2012 alone, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) counted more than 56.000 Hate Crimes in Europe.

Nonetheless, the estimated number of unreported crimes is significantly higher. Hate Crimes are insufficiently recognised in official criminal statistics in many countries. Different ways to count Hate Crimes, different definitions of the phenomenon and different levels of awareness are reasons for an unknown number of bias motivated violations. According to a survey of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), every fourth person with a migration background in the EU was a victim of Hate Crime in the previous twelve month.

Thus, people and groups towards whom Hate Crime is directed include foreigners, ethnic minorities, ‚sinti and roma’, people whose sexual identity or orientation are refused by the offenders, Jews and other religious minorities, people with disabilities and homeless people, as well as people who are committed to fighting nationalism, racism, and homophobia.

The impacts of Hate Crimes are widespread. They are targeted towards individuals as a representative of a disliked group, against the whole group and against common values of democratic societies. This is why the fight against Hate Crime and discrimination has to be a pan-European, inter-disciplinary task.

One important task is to support and to encourage the victims. The specific character of Hate Crimes, the dimensions of violence and their heavy impacts justify professional and specialized help, support and advice for the victims,but roughly 75 percent of Hate Crimes are not reported to police or to independent offices for victim support. Governmental Institutions are often seen as a part of the problem, so victims are afraid of being discriminated or victimized once again after denouncing a violation. There is also a lack of specialized support and advisory for victims of Hate Crime nearly everywhere in Europe, so victims often have no options.

To properly improve the situation of (potential) victims,  awareness of the problems that are prejudice, discrimination and Hate Crime has to be raised, especially for investigative and legal authorities. Furthermore, victims should have access to professional and independent advisory and support all over Europe. Such offices for victim support need a reliable funding and the support of strong stakeholders. With their expert knowledge, they are not only helping the victims after a violation, but are also engaged in transforming the social and political situation in which people are getting downgraded and pushed to the margin, for the better.

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