EU Fundamental Rights Agency presents its Annual Report: Member States must close gaps in legal protection (24/06/2009)
The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on 24 June released its Annual Report 2009. The report covers information, events and developments in the EU for the year 2008. It supplies material under the heading of ‘racism, xenophobia and related intolerance', and adds to this an overview of developments in a range of other fundamental rights areas, consistent with the Agency's mandate. The Agency's research shows that alarmingly few people are aware of their rights and where to report incidents of discrimination. Poor data collection in the EU-27 continues to hamper the implementation of effective policies to combat discrimination, whilst gaps in legal protection ensure that discrimination continues to thrive in certain areas. The FRA calls for better official data to raise awareness of how to report discrimination and encourage effective crime prevention initiatives at Member State level. Member States should also be encouraged to close the gaps in legal protection, raising awareness of the legal instruments available and targeting specific groups at risk of discrimination.
More awareness-raising on rights urgently needed.
The FRA's studies and reports have consistently shown that an overwhelming number of people are not aware of their rights should they be a victim of discrimination. For example, the FRA's recent EU-MIDIS (Minorities and Discrimination) Survey showed that only 39% of those minorities interviewed were aware of a law that forbids discrimination against people on the basis of ethnicity when applying for a job. At the same time, only 20% knew of an organisation that offers support or advice to people who have been discriminated against.
FRA Director Morten Kjaerum: "There is an urgent need for better information. Most victims of discrimination are not aware that what is being done to them is illegal. At the same time, many do not know how or where to file a complaint. As a consequence, the dark figure of discrimination is extremely high. Governments have an obligation to inform everyone of their rights, and ensure access to justice in practice, not just on paper".
Member States must close gaps in legal protection
Anastasia Crickley, Chairperson of the FRA Management Board stated: "There are still many gaps in legal protection against discrimination. Why should it be possible to sue a landlord for discriminating against someone on the basis of ethnicity or gender but not because of discrimination due to religion, age, disability or sexual orientation? Why are disabled people protected from discrimination in employment but not to the same degree in education?"
In June 2008, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Council Directive to close these gaps and extend protection against discrimination (on the grounds of religion, belief, disability, age, and sexual orientation) currently covering the employment sector to areas of social security, healthcare, education and access to and supply of goods and services. Several Agency reports have been used to underpin this EU Commission initiative for a new anti-discrimination directive, such as its legal study and social science report on homophobia in Europe.
Anastasia Crickley: "I urge EU governments to adopt the European Commission's proposal to extend protection against discrimination to cover all grounds".
Poor data collection hampers effective policies
This poor rights awareness coincides with insufficient recording and reporting mechanisms of discrimination.
For example, on racist crime, in the majority of EU Member States (15 out of 27) there is either a complete absence of publicly available official criminal justice data on racist crime, or limited reporting on a few court cases. Nine Member States can be categorised as having a ‘good' data collection mechanism on racist crimes, and data collection mechanisms can be considered ‘comprehensive' in only three Member States.
Morten Kjaerum: "Many Member States still have insufficient or no official criminal justice data on racist crime. This is symptomatic of a lack of political focus and resource allocation to address the problem". He continued: "Insufficient or non-existent data collection, combined with poor rights awareness and the under-reporting of discrimination and crime, leads to a situation where the true extent and nature of fundamental rights violations cannot be determined. Collecting data is not a solution in itself, but it serves to generate an understanding of the nature and extent of fundamental rights violations. Effective, targeted policies at Member State level can only be developed with an accurate knowledge of the situation".
"There are encouraging developments in some Member States with respect to improvements in data collection, particularly on a localised level. However, national practice regarding the collection and use of data remains varied across Member States".
The FRA Annual Report can be downloaded from http://fra.europa.eu/
For further questions, please contact the FRA Media Team:
Tel.: +43 1 58030-642
Notes to editors:
- The Annual Report 2009 of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) covers information, events and developments in the EU in 2008. This report is broader in scope than previous Annual Reports of the Agency. As with previous years, the report covers material under the heading of ‘racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, but it adds to this an overview of developments in a range of other fundamental rights areas, consistent with the Agency's mandate. In addition, it contains a summary of FRA activities on fundamental rights in the form of research projects, incident reports and opinions produced in 2008.
- The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights was established in March 2007 in Vienna (Austria). The Agency has three key functions: to collect information and data on fundamental rights; provide advice to the EU and its Member States; and promote dialogue with civil society in order to raise public awareness of fundamental rights.