Jesuits call for increased efforts to combat racism in Europe

 On the eve of the European-wide week of Action Against Racism, Jesuit Refugee Services have put out a statement calling on governments to work more pro-actively to integrate refugees and migrants. Warning that the presence of immigrants in Western European society is increasingly accompanied by racial tensions, with political parties being formed with anti-immigrant platform in many countries - it says: "Serious racial tensions have been experienced in Denmark, Italy, Britain, Spain, and Germany. Ireland, a country that has only recently begun to experience the phenomenon of immigration, has also witnessed hostility to third country nationals." "JRS is very concerned about some emerging trends," said European JRS Director Fr John Dardis SJ. "These trends show how important it is to work pro-actively to integrate local communities with newly arriving groups of migrants and refugees. Integration is something we cannot take for granted. When refugees flee their homeland to escape persecution it is a real tragedy when they are met by a different type of persecution here in Europe. "Immigrants and refugees are especially vulnerable to racist attacks since they do not always enjoy the same rights which protect citizens. Irregular migrants and those without papers live on the margins of society and cannot easily go to the authorities to complain. JRS-Europe calls politicians to give positive leadership in the fight against racism. "National governments and politicians must have the courage to denounce racism and discrimination in all its forms and draft legislation to combat such practices ," said Fr John. "Most politicians take up this challenge and we should not support any politician who tries to play upon the fears of the electorate in a populist way, using racial issues for political gain. They do no service to their constituents but instead help create an environment of bigotry, division, and hatred. "The European Union has an important role to play in combating racism and has already taken positive steps. Article 13 of the Amsterdam Treaty gives the Community powers to legislate to combat discrimination based on racial origin. A number of Directives have been adopted by the Council of Ministers to ensure equal treatment for all persons irrespective of race or ethnic origin. "In addition, a Community Action Programme (2001-2006) to deal with discrimination has been agreed upon, and the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia was set up in Vienna in April 2000. "These initiatives form part of the Union's stated ambition to create ''an area of Justice, Security, and Freedom'. "The Community must now ensure that what is agreed upon in Brussels is enacted in the individual member states. The Charter of Fundamental Rights, agreed between the Member States at Nice in December 2000, should also be given legal force by incorporating it into the treaties. Chapter III of the Charter deals with Equality and non-discrimination. "Immigration can have a positive affect upon a nation, adding to the diversity and richness of its culture. Most people are generous and want nothing to do with the campaigns that victimise and smear vulnerable groups of immigrants or ethnic minorities. However, education programmes are also essential to eradicate ignorance and prejudices that may exist. To this end, Governments should ensure that every school has, as part of its curriculum, an education programme to combat racism and xenophobia so that racism does not take root through ignorance. This year more than ever, there is a need for people throughout Europe to state clearly that racism has no place in our societies." In 1960, March 21 was declared International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the General Assembly of the United Nations - in reaction to the killing of 70 demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960. The European-wide Action Week Against Racism takes place each year around 21st March. Source: Jesuit Refugee Service -

Share this story