Germany: Racism not just a right-wing phenomenon

1 July 2009 – Germany needs to change its view of racism from one associated only with right-wing extremists to a broader definition that realizes that racism occurs in everyday life, particularly towards migrants, a United Nations independent human rights expert said today.

Githu Muigai, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, wrapped up a 10-day visit to Germany by praising the country for the progress it has made in recent year in combating racism.

Yet, in a statement issued in Berlin, he said that more needed to be done, especially in ensuring that migrants are better integrated into German society.

“In view of the new challenges facing Germany in the 21st century, there is a need to shift from a more circumscribed view of racism as associated to right-wing extremism to a broader understanding of the problem that takes into account the difficult challenges of integration and the recognition that racism occurs regularly in everyday life,” he said.

Mr. Muigai said that he was therefore encouraged by the open acknowledgement by authorities that Germany is a country of migrants and that migrants make a positive contribution to society.

He also warned that despite the high awareness in Germany of the threat posed by right-wing extremism, groups based on this ideology have demonstrated enduring resilience and thus need constant vigilance.

But Mr. Muigai welcomed the establishment of a federal anti-discrimination agency and the adoption of equal treatment laws, and called for the anti-discrimination framework to be more made more active.

He also called for more resources to be devoted to the agency so that it can be more independent and robust.

“The legal and institutional frameworks play a key role in the fight against racism, not only by providing victims with the possibility of seeking remedies, but also by demonstrating to society that racism and discrimination are unlawful and will bring swift consequences.

The Special Rapporteur, who serves in an unpaid and personal capacity and reports to the Human Rights Council, also welcomed local anti-racism initiatives he saw in action in cities such as Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Leipzig, and he called for them to be replicated across the country.

UN News Centre