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Germany: Anti-racism report recommends ways to improve fight against hate crime

CoE: Chancellor Angela Merkel praised for speaking out against hate speech

report by the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) calls on Germany to step up their efforts to prevent and counter extremism and neo-Nazism and to ensure that evidence of online hate speech is transmitted to the police. It furthermore recommends strengthening existing equality bodies and to speed-up the updating of the National Action Plan on Integration and establish counselling services for intersex children and their parents. (see German and French versions of the report)

Since its previous report in 2013, ECRI welcomes efforts that Germany has made to fight racism and discrimination. The report notes that “Germany warmly welcomed an extraordinarily large number of asylum seekers in 2015” and “invested many resources” in their inclusive integration. Several core integration indicators improved. The kindergarten enrolment rate of children with migration backgrounds increased to 84%, for example. The report praises the fact that German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have publicly spoken out against hate speech and called on social networks to enforce their guidelines on removing hate speech. The 2018 Network Enforcement Act obliges large social networks to remove hate speech “in clear cases within 24 hours” and the most serious forms of hate speech disappeared from the large social media platforms.

In several Länder, the police work intensively with civil society to improve the detection and recording of hate crime. More Länder have established entities that promote equality and new provisions have been introduced that allow to discontinue the public financing of racist political parties. Surveys show “high levels of openness and understanding” for homosexual persons, a third gender category, “divers”, was introduced in 2018 and the authorities are working on new regulations on gender recognition of transgender persons and “gender-normalising” medical measures on intersex children.

However, ECRI detects that public discourse has become increasingly xenophobic and has noted “high levels of Islamophobia”. Racism is “particularly blatant” in two sub organisations of a new political party and the constant racist and xenophobic discourse from the extreme right has impacted mainstream political discourse. ECRI also found an increasing number of right-wing extremists “ready to use violence”, with both right-wing and Islamist terrorists committing racist attacks. Many hate crimes remain unreported and evidence of online hate speech that could lead to violence is “not systematically transmitted to the police”. German Sinti and Roma need assistance and migrant Roma are often victims of exclusion and exploitation. Migrants in irregular situations need counselling and assistance.

The National Action Plan for Integration lacks indicators to measure progress and the process for its revision is slow. In primary education, children with migration backgrounds lag behind and the gap widens through to the 9th grade: they are more than twice as likely to leave school without a diploma. Furthermore, teachers do not feel adequately prepared to teach in a diverse environment.