The institutions of the European Union are belatedly accepting that official statistics on racial discrimination and racist crime in the EU are only the “tip of the iceberg.” Its Agency for Fundamental Rights has recently published the first detailed survey of the ethnic minorities, covering 23,500 respondents in all 27 member states and examining their experience of employment and recruitment, accommodation, health and social services, education, financial services, and even shopping. The findings are bleak. For example, 82 per cent of respondents do not report racial discrimination to the police, mainly because they feel nothing would be done. Even the police account for much racial oppression in the form of disproportionate questioning of ethnic minorities. Under-reporting of racism is found in most public bodies, including those created to investigate racism. The groups that encounter racism least are of Russian or Eastern European origin; as an earlier EU study on illegal employment notes, they are primarily white. In contrast, Somalis, of whom 40 per cent experienced at least one racist episode in the previous 12 months, and various North African groups are the most common victims, as are Brazilians in Portugal.
The findings reveal several cruel ironies. In the last two centuries, millions of Europeans have fled famine, poverty, and oppression to make new lives in the United States, Australasia, Southern Africa, and elsewhere. Yet the recent study finds that those now treated worst are Roma, who are European-born. The worst countries in this regard are the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Greece. In Greece, respondents revealed 174 incidents for every 100 Roma in the population. Furthermore, the EU’s ethnic minorities are more likely to be victims of certain kinds of crime than the white majority, contrary to the widespread racist stereotyping of ethnic minorities as criminals. The report recommends improvements in rights-awareness and notes the weaknesses in official attitudes and resources. It is, however, clear that EU ethnic minorities live, or rather exist, in some kind of a twilight zone largely unknown to the white majority. They form 20 per cent of the Union’s 500-million population, and for them everyday life carries a constant risk of racism, from violence and public abuse through official hostility and neglect to the subtle ways white employers evade anti-discrimination law in every walk of life. Sensitive people on the continent wonder how European society can confront others with principles it does not even uphold.