Violence against migrants, migrant workers and their families

Closing speech on the 21st Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Vienna

Madam Chairperson,

Your Royal Highness,

1. The importance of evidence-based policy making is increasingly finding its way also to the area of Fundamental Rights.  The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has been set up to provide evidence-based advice to the EU institutions and the EU Member States on a range of fundamental rights issues. So let me highlight two initiatives at EU level in the field of data collection related to violence against migrants.

2. In the European Union, legislation is in place to address racist crime against minorities. The Council Framework Decision of 28 November 2008[1] on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, has required EU Member States to ensure that criminal penalties can be imposed for publicly inciting to violence or hatred based on person’s race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin. For any other offences, racist and xenophobic motivation is to be considered an aggravating factor or shall be taken into consideration by the courts when penalties are determined.

3. Data is being collected in some European Union Member States on minorities as victims of crime, but comparable data is lacking. In response to the lack of comparable data on EU-level, in 2008 the FRA carried out the first ever EU-wide survey on immigrant and ethnic minorities’ experiences of violence and harassment in the 27 EU Member States. Over 23,500 people were interviewed in-person for the survey.

4. The results were published as the European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS)[2], and show that violence affects many immigrant groups at a higher rate than the general population. In some minority groups, over four times more respondents had been physically assaulted in the 12 months preceding the interview, compared with the general population in the country.

5. The survey data also show that up to 74% of immigrants and ethnic minorities, who have been victims of assault in the past 12 months, have not reported any of these incidents to the police. The main reason given by the respondents for not reporting to the police was their lack of confidence that the police would be able to do anything to assist them.

6. Young people with an immigrant or ethnic minority background also display higher rates of criminal victimisation than older age groups. And, when considering employment status, those immigrants and ethnic minorities who were unemployed had higher rates of victimisation compared to others.

7. In most cases the victims identified the perpetrators as coming from the majority population. In over half of all cases the incidents involved multiple perpetrators, who typically were not known to the victims beforehand. However, in relatively few cases were perpetrators identified as members of a racist gang.

8. The data provided by the FRA has given EU Member States and institutions an important basis for development of initiatives and concrete measures to address the victimisation of migrants. The next important step on EU-level is the development of the European Safety Survey. The current proposal for the survey involves collecting information on immigrant background, which can be analysed alongside data on respondents’ victimisation experiences. The results of this survey will be available by 2015, and the survey will be carried out by the statistical office of the European Commission, Eurostat, together with the national statistical institutes.

9. To conclude, the European Union has taken important steps towards creating a better knowledge-base on victimisation of migrants. The results from the Fundamental Rights Agency’s survey, and the following Eurostat survey, open the way for the further development of evidence-based measures to prevent victimisation and to provide assistance to the victims. In this way, we can improve the ways in which the needs of vulnerable migrant groups are addressed. The FRA would be pleased to work with others to continue to develop this very important and complex work.


Thank you, Madam Chairperson.