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Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Discriminatory practices have been very common during the monitored period, particularly in relation to immigrants. There is implicit evidence of racial profiling by the police. A brutal example of police violence occurred this spring in Hanover, where a 39-year-old police officer allegedly abused two migrants, force-feeding rotten pork to one of them. In reaction to this case, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Nils Muizneks, explicitly pointed to the existence of institutional racism in Germany.

In employment, even skilled immigrants are faced with artificial barriers. Compared to German nationals, they are given higher rates in accommodation. Rights of their children are grossly violated in education; and women find it much harder to find a job. Muslim and Turkish immigrants are subjected to these issues the most. There have been reports of discrimination against Roma in education, employment, healthcare and housing.

Reports also point to a high level of LGBT discrimination. Most difficult situation arose in schools, where they are consistently bullied by fellow students. LGBT civil partners (34 000 in 2011) are prohibited from adopting children. German Medical Association restricts access to fertility services for such couples, claiming that two homosexual parents cannot legally provide for a stable relationship.

On the other hand, there have been manifestations of radical Islamism. For example, on May 20th it was announced that about 25 schools in Hamburg have requested to strengthen measures to monitor the Islamic groups who are trying to impose their norms in schools, leading a "religious war" against non-Muslim students and teachers. Among students there were cases of religiously motivated violence. Threatened and subjected to regular beatings were not only students, but also non-Muslim teachers. Muslim students have divided into groups and started fighting with each other. In particular, Sunnis forced Alawi and Shiite to leave school. Even non-Muslim students were forced to follow Islamic norms. A large number of students are affected by jihadist propaganda; the image of a jihad warrior is idealised.

Hate crime legislation does not feature in the German Criminal Code. Rather, hate speech is criminalised under other laws, e.g. Volksverhetzung (German for “incitement of popular hatred”). German law does not allow for consideration of motivation in the legal process aimed at establishing the facts of the offence. Within the legal framework relating to sentencing, however, ‘motivational’ principles (e.g. bias or hate) can be considered. The section 46 of the German Criminal Code states that “the motives and aims of the perpetrator; the state of mind reflected in the act and the wilfulness involved in its commission” can be taken into account by the judge in determining the sentence.

The problem of 2015 was the misclassification of hate crime as regular crime. Often, police officers make these decisions to consciously avoid “dealing with politics”, as well as due to lack of training and inability to distinguish a hate crime. However, there have been cases of outright institutional racism or even hate crimes committed by law enforcement officers themselves.

One of the more blatant examples of institutional racism in police occurred in spring 2015 in Hannover, Germany, when a police officer force-fed pork to two Muslim immigrants . Racial profiling is implicit in the German Federal Police Act, which could lead to racial discrimination, particularly given the arbitrary conditions it provides, such as the “feeling for a particular situation” and the need to be guided by “physical appearance of a suspect” . High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks drew attention to these provisions.

Especially depressing was the deportation of Afghan citizens seeking asylum. They were sent to the provinces of Afghanistan, which are considered "safe", i.e. are not controlled by the Taliban, but by government troops. However, it is known that the government of Afghanistan controls only 60% of the country's territory. In other regions, Islamist groups dominate, or there are active military operations. Twenty of the ninety groups recognized by the UN as terrorist and included in the sanctions lists, are based in Afghanistan. The total number of Afghans forced to leave their place of permanent residence and seek refuge, as already indicated, has reached 1.2 million. Their return became possible after the decision of the governments of Germany and the UK that Afghanistan, namely provinces controlled by the government (mainly the capital city of Kabul), is a "safe" place for the return of refugees.

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Office published in 2017 a large-scale report on the situation with the discrimination of people on various grounds in Germany. Key points:

  1. Discrimination is widespread in German society. 31.4% of respondents said they had encountered this in practice.
  2. Discrimination affects to some extent almost all groups of the population, but some groups are much more affected than others. These are women, homosexuals and people of non-Christian faith, primarily Muslims. Often there are several factors of discrimination in combination with each other, for example, with regard to women who have come to Germany from Arab countries.
  3. The fight against discrimination is not fully resolved by the General Act on Equal Treatment (German abbreviation -AGG). The law does not specify discrimination in connection with foreign citizenship, family or social status or a certain manner of dressing. Also a number of areas are not covered by law. This is discrimination in the sphere of education, in public institutions and in the organization of leisure.
  4. Discrimination is multifaceted and has various forms of expression. It is not only insults, humiliation of human dignity or refusal of any service due to prejudice. This is the application of legislative tools (laws, regulations, orders) that can be selective and thereby discriminate against a person who depends on a particular department.

There was also listed in the Report the spheres of the life activity, in which cases of discrimination are especially noticeable: the education (from kindergarten to high schools), job (from employment to production relations), housing market (access to the market, relationship with the owner of housing), health (doctors, junior and patronage medical staff), police and courts (adoption and consideration of applications and claims, criminal and civil law issues) state institutions (labor exchanges, social and tax departments, civil registry offices, residence permit), leisure organization (relations with neighbors, friendly relations with colleagues in the workplace, membership in NGOs), services (banks, insurance companies, discos, clubs, catering establishments, hotels). In other words, discrimination is present on the territory of Germany in all spheres of human activity.

The reaction of the victims is noteworthy. The report contains separate data from the study "The experience of discrimination in Germany," according to which 27.4% of victims try to attract public opinion to the discrimination they experienced. 17.1% prefer to file a complaint. 6.2% at least once in their life tried to apply legal steps against a legal or natural person who discriminated against them. 40% of the victims have never done anything against discrimination. The most important reasons for passive behavior are the question of the effectiveness of the complaint or other measures, the fear of "even greater problems" and the lack of opportunities (sufficient knowledge of the language, laws, etc.)

Most experts (both in the media and professional periodicals, as well as in personal conversations) note the difficulty of enforcing the General Equality Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, AGG) in practice. Victims rarely file lawsuits, believing that litigation is "pointless" and requires significant time and expense without significant chances of success and tangible results, such as compensation. In 2018-21, individual cases involving an assessment of what the plaintiff believes to be discriminatory conduct were heard in the courts of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Berlin Labor Court heard a lawsuit by a salaried employee who felt discriminated against by two other superior employees because of his "East German background." The plaintiff insisted on a sum of money as compensation for moral damages. In August 2019, the court dismissed the complaint, citing the absence of this discriminatory criterion in the AGG and the fact that "East Germans" are not an ethnic group (AZ 44 Ca 8580/18).

German Foreign Minister Horst Seehofer ordered that after December 31, 2020, the ban on deportations to Syria should not be extended. The ban was introduced in 2012 and has been regularly extended since then. The reason is the unfavorable situation in Syria and the threat to the health and lives of opponents of the Bashar al-Assad regime and/or opponents of Islamism, depending on the region of the country. The German Foreign Ministry said in a report in May 2020 that the danger persists even in regions where there are no hostilities. However, Seehofer believes that the practice of a total ban on deportation prevents the expulsion of potentially dangerous Islamists and those who have committed criminal offenses from the FRG. In fact, this has posed a threat to all refugees from Syria, most of whom are not affiliated with Islamist groups.

In the wake of the debate about racism in the police, there has been a growing public demand for an independent body to which to complain about law enforcement misconduct. This was demanded by 65 percent of those surveyed in October 2020. At present only three federal states have such a structure: Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Schleswig-Holstein. For information: In Germany the majority of police forces (275,000 employees) are under state control. There are 51,000 police officers under federal command.

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