[lg policy] Council of Europe highlights xenophobia in Belgium (fwd)

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Tue Jun 2 21:20:22 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 27 May 2009 12:09:41 -0400
From: Harold Schiffman <hfsclpp at gmail.com>
Reply-To: Language Policy List <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
To: lp <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
Subject: [lg policy] Council of Europe highlights xenophobia in Belgium

Council of Europe highlights xenophobia in Belgium
By Judith Crosbie
26.05.2009 / 16:24 CET

Europe's top watchdog flags up persistence of far-right violence,
police abuse and language-based discrimination.
The activities of neo-Nazi groups in Belgium are contributing to a
climate of xenophobia, leading to a “persistence of incidents of
racist violence”, the Council of Europe, Europe's top human-rights
body, concludes in a report published today.

The report highlights the well-publicised racist attacks by Hans Van
Themsche, who shot dead a two-year-old child and her Malian nanny in
October 2007 and who attempted to kill a Turkish woman in Antwerp in
2006. But it says the cases brought before the courts appear to be
“the tip of the iceberg”. Non-governmental organisations claim that
people who contact them following attacks do not want to report the
incidents to the police, the report says, urging the Belgian
authorities to monitor the extreme right-wing groups behind racist

The Council of Europe also draws attention to racial discrimination,
which it says “persists” in employment, education and access to
housing and public services. Children from immigrant backgrounds do
less well at school than Belgium children for a variety of reasons
which include “de facto segregation at school and the racism which
they allegedly sometimes encounter”, the report adds.
The Belgian police are singled out for criticism, with racially
motivated abusive behaviour by police officers not “receiving
sufficient attention and those responsible...not being punished”.

Belgium's own linguistic divide is highlighted with the “worrying”
tendency to politically exploit the tensions between the Dutch- and
French-speaking communities. Measures to oblige certain groups to
learn Flemish have led to “dangerous” practices, such as
stigmatisation and exclusion from social housing and jobs. “The fact
is that, to date, there is no body specialising in the fight against
discrimination that is competent to deal with questions of
discrimination based on language,” the report declares.

The findings feature in a report produced by Council of Europe's
European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, which examines
racism and discrimination in individual European countries every five


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