Government statistics, NGO monitoring, and other surveys paint a picture of racist violence that is either rising or holding steady at historically high levels. Although comprehensive and systematic data collection systems are unavailable in most OSCE states, government monitoring in Finland, Ireland, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States showed moderate to high rises in the overall numbers of hate crimes in 2006 and 2007– the latest figures available. In France, official figures showed an overall decline in racist and xenophobic hate crimes, even as the proportion of these crimes involving violence and direct threats against persons rose. In Germany, official figures released through the third quarter of 2007 showed a significant rise in violent hate crimes, although year end figures showed a slight decline.
Information from nongovernmental monitors provided evidence of rising levels of racist violence in Greece, Italy, the Russian Federation, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
Intergovernmental bodies that have focused on hate crime data collection—particularly the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)—have been useful sources of comparative information. FRA has most recently concluded that of the 27 E.U. Member States, only 11 collect sufficiently robust criminal justice data on racist violence and crime to allow for a trend analysis of the problem over time.
Based on the data collected by these eleven E.U. governments, FRA noted that between 2005 and 2006, seven of the eleven states had experienced an upward trend in recorded racist crime: Germany, Ireland, Austria, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Over a longer period of time—between 2000 and 2006—eight countries experienced an upward trend in recorded racist crime: Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, Slovakia, Finland, and the United Kingdom.
In the absence of reliable official data in the majority of E.U. states, the FRA has noted the utility of crime surveys. For example, the 2007 report draws upon the 2007 European Crime and Safety Survey, which asked respondents of immigrant background whether they or members of their household were victims of a hate crime during the previous year.
The survey revealed high levels of hate crimes reported by respondents of immigrant background in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, while there was no relevant official criminal justice data on racist violence and crime from these countries. The study found that in a 12-month period, hate crimes were experienced by 14.5 percent of respondents in Spain and by 16.4 percent in Greece. On the basis of this study, FRA observed that in the original fifteen member states of the European Union, “on average 9.9 percent of respondents with an immigrant background indicated that they or a member of their immediate family were the victim of hate crime.”
In France, the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), the official body that reports annually on racist, xenophobic, and antisemitic hate crimes, reported a continuing trend in 2007 toward violent attacks and threats against individuals, even as overall numbers of incidents declined. The proportion of violent acts directed at individuals increased from 45 percent of total hate crimes in 2006 to 51 percent in 2007; the total number of racist and xenophobic crimes declined by 9 percent.
In Germany, between 2003 and 2006, official figures on violent crimes with a “right-wing extremist” motivation increased steadily from 759 in 2003 to 1,047 in 2006. In 2007, for the first time since 2003, the incidence of right-wing violent crimes decreased to 980, although remaining at historically high levels. Similarly, official figures showed a slight decline in violent xenophobic crime—a subset of right-wing violent crime—from 484 in 2006 to 414 in 2007.
Other German sources reported a rise in these crimes in 2007. Uwe-Karsten Heye, the head of the German anti-xenophobia group Gesicht Zeigen! (Show Your Faces!), said in March 2008 that a record number of attacks were reported in 2007—consistent with official reports through the first three quarters of the year. These included incidents in which some six hundred people were attacked by neo-Nazis, as well as systematic attacks on immigrant-run businesses.
In Sweden, in 2007, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), reported 3,536 hate crimes—an 8 percent increase over the 3,259 hate crimes reported in 2006. “Xenophobic” crimes—the majority subset of hate crimes overall—also registered a year-on-year increase, up 13 percent to 2,489 such crimes in 2007 from 2,189 in 2006.
In the United Kingdom—the only country to report on incidents (acts which may fall short of criminal offenses) as well as offenses—61,262 racist incidents were reported to the police in 2006/2007, an increase of 3.7 percent over the previous year. Among these, there were 42,551 racially or religiously aggravated offences, representing a 2.6 percent increase in the number of offenses over the previous year. Just over half of all police forces recorded an increase in the number of offences motivated by a religious or racial bias.
In Scotland, there were 1,022 incidents of racist violence in Lothian and the Borders regions in 2006/2007, twice the 2002/2003 number. In Strathclyde, police reported 1,853 hate crimes during the 2006/2007 year, a 7.5 percent rise over the previous year, and an almost 20 percent rise over 2002/2003 levels.
In some countries where data for 2007 is not yet publicly available, available statistics for earlier periods show a rise in racist violence over 2005 levels.
In Finland, there was a steady rise in the incidence of racist crimes and violence between 2004 and 2006. In 2006, police filed reports on 748 suspected racist crimes. The most common offence was assault (assaults and attempted assaults accounted for 40 percent of all cases). The police registered 669 and 558 incidents of racial violence in 2005 and 2004, respectively.
In Ireland, according to annual police reports, police registered 174 racist incidents in 2006 as compared with 94 in 2005 and 84 in 2004. Early reports from Ireland’s antiracism body—the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI)—suggest a further rise in 2007. In March 2008, the NCCRI said that, according to incident reports it had received, the number of reported assaults, cases of harassment, and other types of abuse in 2007 had risen to 99, compared to the 2006 figure of 65.
Incidents monitored by the NCCRI included both crimes of violence—such as an attack by Cork teenagers on a Burundian man—and cases of racist speech, including racism on the internet. The report said that “the most significant victims of racist incidents were black African males,” with others targeted including people of Asian origin and members of the Traveller community. Half of the incidents were reported in the Dublin area.
In the Slovak Republic, the police in 2006 reported on 188 registered criminal offenses motivated by racial, ethnic, or other intolerance, up from 121 reported offenses in 2005.
In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) hate crime statistics are disaggregated to include data on crimes motivated by race (including “antiblack” bias) and ethnicity (including “anti-Hispanic” bias). In 2006, there was a rise in both categories over figures from 2005. In 2006, the FBI reported 4,737 race-based offenses (up from 4,691 in 2005) and 1,233 ethnicity-based offenses (up from 1,144 in 2005).
The highest levels of violent hate crime continue to be directed toward members of the African American community and others of African origin, in what the FBI’s annual hate crime reports refer to as antiblack bias attacks. In the latest report, covering 2006, the FBI found that over a third of hate crime victims were targeted because of antiblack bias. Local monitors confirmed the statistics. The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, in its annual hate crime report for 2007, found that antiblack hate crimes were not only by far the most numerous—310 of the total of 510—but also increased 21 percent compared to 2006. This represented 58 percent of all hate crimes, although African Americans constitute just 9 percent of Los Angeles County’s population.
NGO reporting and analysis in the United States added to the picture provided by the FBI statistics. The Year in Hate, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual report for 2007, revealed a 35 percent rise in hate crimes against people of Hispanic origin between 2003 and 2006—based on an analysis of Federal Bureau of Investigation crime reports. An FBI spokesman interviewed by National Public Radio confirmed the 35 percent rise.
As in some of the aforementioned countries, NGO monitoring can often be a useful supplement to available government statistics. In countries where governments do not record or publicly report specifically on racist violence, NGOs may be the only source of data on hate crimes.
In Greece, where no official statistics on hate crimes are available, racist incidents reported by the Hellenic League for Human Rights in 2006 included the stabbing to death of a Georgian and an Albanian immigrant in Crete. There were sixteen other “major” incidents of racist violence against immigrants and refugees, two attacks on Roma, and two on religious minorities. In the annual report for 2007, the Hellenic League for Human Rights reported a steady increase in racist attacks on immigrants and other minorities, while condemning the indifference of Greek law enforcement bodies toward the attacks.
In Italy, where no statistics on violent hate crimes are regularly made available by official sources, news media and nongovernmental monitors highlighted a spike of anti-Roma and anti-immigrant violence in 2007 and 2008.
In the Russian Federation, the number of violent hate crimes against individuals continues to grow steadily, with 2008 on track to be another record-setting year. According to the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, the leading nongovernmental monitor of hate crimes, in 2007 there were at least 667 victims of racially motivated violence, including 86 murders. In comparison, there were 568 victims of violent hate crimes, including 63 murders, registered in 2006. The beginning of 2008 has shown a dramatic growth of hate violence. Already in the first eight months of 2008, 65 people were killed and 318 injured as a result of racial and other bias-motivated assaults.
In Spain, the Spanish Commission to Aid Refugees (CEAR) reported three hundred racist attacks in 2006, mostly on people of immigrant origin, and spoke out on continuing racist attacks during 2007 and 2008.
In Switzerland, in June 2008, the Swiss Foundation against Racism and Antisemitism issued the annual review on racism, finding a rise of some 30 percent in racist incidents in 2007 from 2006 levels: from 87 to 118. Incidents recorded included personal assaults, arson or use of gunfire, harassment, and vandalism.
In Ukraine, nongovernmental monitors documented eighty-six bias-motivated attacks on persons in 2007, including five murders, as compared with fourteen attacks, including two murders, in 2006. This constituted a sharp rise over 2005 figures. In the first 6 months of 2008, there were at least four murders of foreigners and numerous serious attacks in which there was a suspected racist or other bias motivation.