III. Victims of Violence Based on Racism and Xenophobia
Racism and xenophobia victimize a wide range of communities across Europe and North America by reason of their origins, and the color of their skin. These communities under threat, often distinguished by their ethnic or national origin, include both national minorities and people of immigrant origin, citizens and noncitizens, longtime residents and newcomers. Among them are Roma and Sinti, often described as Europe’s largest minority—a people whose situation is touched upon here but whose unique circumstances are addressed in a separate section in this survey on Violence Against Roma. Racism is also a factor in antisemitism and anti-Muslim bias that combines with religious hatred and prejudice. These issues, too, are discussed in separate sections on Antisemitic Violence and Violence Against Muslims.
- On May 24, 2008 in Viersen, in North Rhine-Westphalia, four men with shaved heads and wearing bomber jackets approached a man of African origin, threatened him with knives and an iron rod, and then beat him.
- On March 2, 2008, in Berlin, a 20-year-old woman yelling racial slurs pushed a dark-skinned man into the path of an oncoming train. The 19-year-old victim, assisted by two people, was able to jump up from the tracks in time.
- On October 20, 2007, in Berlin Spandau, a group of young men harassed and beat an African-American; four men were arrested and an investigation was reportedly opened.
- In June 2007, in Berlin, three attackers assaulted a man of African origin at a subway station and knocked him off the platform; the victim suffered head injuries and was in a coma for several days.
- In October 2007, in Moscow, an assailant stabbed and seriously injured Cameroonian Vansi Jeanu. Police said a young man had been detained in relation to the attack, which was similarly being investigated as act of hooliganism.
- On February 4, 2007, in Saint Petersburg, attackers described as skinheads assaulted a postgraduate student from Cameroon at a metro station, causing serious injuries requiring hospitalization. Prosecutors said the attack was under investigation as hooliganism.
- On May 1, 2007, in a Zurich suburb, unknown men shouting obscenities about Africans attacked Antonio da Costa, a 43-year-old refugee from Angola. The attackers used chainsaws to rake da Costa’s face, neck, and chest, nearly severing his left thumb, and severely slashing one arm; he required six hours of emergency surgery. There were reportedly no arrests, although a prosecutor said video surveillance footage was being used in the investigation.
- In Thun, on January 28, 2007, six skinheads assaulted and injured three young people, including a 22-year-old Swiss citizen of African origin, who was told that he had no business being in Switzerland. Police arrived but made no arrests; in April, 2008, a 23-year-old with a record of political extremism was fined for involvement in the attack.
- On February 22, 2008, in the Dublin suburb of Drimnagh, Polish migrant workers Marius Szwajkos and Pawel Kalite were murdered by a group of youths, suffering lethal stab wounds in the head and throat. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who was on a state visit to Poland at the time of the killings, called the killings a result of “hooliganism,” while the families of the victims said it would probably “never be known” if they were motivated by xenophobia or racism. A 17-year-old and a 19-year-old were charged in relation to the two murders.
- On February 3, 2007, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Polish construction worker Patryk Mnich was attacked and beaten in a xenophobic attack causing him severe head injuries and permanent disability. His assailant was charged with inflicting injuries causing permanent impairment and attempted murder. In September 2007, he was sentenced to seven and a half years of imprisonment; although the accused had reportedly called Mnich a “Polish bastard,” a jury rejected a charge that the assault was bias-aggravated.
- In August, in Wales, Glasgow resident Thomas Blue killed Adam Michalski, a Polish immigrant, while shouting xenophobic and racial slurs. Blue was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum 17-year term.
- On April 20, 2008, unknown attackers in Cookstown, County Tyrone, threw a petrol-bomb at the home of Lithuanian immigrants; two men and two women escaped unharmed. Also in April, unknown attackers threw fireworks and bricks through the bedroom window of a Polish couple in Drumahoe, forcing them to flee. In mid-May, two cars belonging to a Bulgarian family living in Portballintrae were set alight, in what was described as the latest incident in a series of “attacks on the homes, cars and businesses of newcomers.” On June 12, 2008, unidentified assailants threw bricks and paint at a house in which two Polish families live.
- On January 22, unidentified attackers threw Molotov cocktails at a center for asylum seekers in Birr; on June 3, 2007, gunmen fired seven shots at the same center, breaking windows.
- On March 4, 2007, in Langendorf, two men were seen driving slowly past a center for asylum seekers shortly after midnight. The same vehicle returned shortly afterward and one of its passengers was seen to fire on the building.
- Shortly after midnight on May 27, 2007, in Fällanden, two young men—aged 16 and 20—threw an incendiary device against the wall of a building housing asylum seekers. The fire was put out by residents. The following night, the men returned and threw two Molotov cocktails at the building. The attackers were detained and confessed to having intended to “frighten the residents.”