UN expert on racism ends mission to Germany

1 July 2009

BERLIN - The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Githu Muigai, concluded his 10-day visit to Germany (22 June-1 July 2009).

Mr. Muigai expressed his sincere appreciation to the authorities at the Federal, State and Municipal levels for their full openness and cooperation throughout his visit. He also thanked civil society and community organizations, religious communities, the academia, victims’ associations and other institutions who provided him with comprehensive information regarding the situation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in Germany.

In his conclusions, the Special Rapporteur noted that “much has been achieved in the fight against racism in Germany over the past few years. Yet, much still needs to be done”. Mr. Muigai explained that “due to its historical experience, German society is very much aware of the dangers of racism and its implication to the democratic process”. He observed that “actors at all levels are well aware of the historical experience of Nazism and the Holocaust, showing a commitment to preserve the memory of these events and ensure that they will not be repeated in the future”.

Mr. Muigai stated that “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”. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur affirmed that he was encouraged by the open recognition by authorities that Germany is nowadays a country of migrants and that migrants make a positive contribution to German society.

The Special Rapporteur also welcomed the adoption of the Federal Equal Treatment Act and the establishment of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. “The key challenge now is to make this anti-discrimination framework more active, robust and responsive to the victims of racism, particularly at the State and Municipal levels”.

The Special Rapporteur noted that in spite of the high awareness of German society regarding the threat of right-wing extremism, youth groups and political parties based on this ideology have shown enduring resilience and therefore require constant vigilance and actions at all levels of the State.

The Special Rapporteur called in particular for a stronger mandate for the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, which should be made more independent and be entrusted with more financial and human resources with a view to being physically present in all 16 States and to have the responsibility to provide legal services to victims of discrimination. “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 also noted that persons with a migrant background are underrepresented in important institutions, including the political system, the police and the courts. In this regard, he strongly recommended that “special measures be taken to ensure an adequate representation of persons with a migration background in State institutions – particularly in the areas of employment, education and the creation of political opportunities, including in the civil service – in order to correct existing imbalances and to offer such persons adequate opportunities to make a lasting contribution to German society”.

The UN independent expert also made recommendations concerning the situation of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly in the way their claims are processed by the authorities, as well as concerning discrimination in the domains of education, housing and employment.

During his visit, the Special Rapporteur was introduced to a wide-ranging number of initiatives at the local level in cities like Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Leipzig. “I hope that these good practices in the fight against racism will be replicated throughout the country and supported financially and politically by the Federal Government”, Mr. Muigai noted.