Society 08/07/2021

Europe warns why most hate crimes go unreported

The main reasons are the conviction that going to the police will not help or the fear of reprisals

3 min
Demonstration in protest at the murder of young Samuel in La Coruña

BarcelonaThousands of attacks against religious minorities, women, migrants or the LGTBIQ collective go unpunished every day throughout the European Union. Between 40% and 90% of victims of so-called hate crimes choose not to report the attack, partly because they distrust official institutions or are afraid of reprisals for pointing out who their attackers are. The Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) warns of this in a report in which it encourages reporting and making visible expressions of intolerance. Extrapolating from this, the 1,700 complaints of discriminatory attacks that were registered in Spain in 2019, the last year collected by the CGPJ, are the tip of the iceberg.

While everyone can be a target of intolerance, members of minorities are up to twice as likely to be victims of discrimination and violence just for being part of them. And increasingly so. In Spain, hate crimes have increased by 45% since 2013, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, coinciding with the presence of the extreme right in the media and institutions. It is not reported, but not because there is no legal framework, since most countries have advanced laws that criminalise these hateful attitudes or have opened services and resources to assist people who have been assaulted. Article 510 of the Penal Code punishes with sentences of between one and four years in prison those who "publicly encourage, promote or incite directly or indirectly hatred, hostility, discrimination or violence" for racist, anti-Semitic or other reasons related to ideology, religion or beliefs, as well as national origin, sex, sexual orientation or identity, gender, illness or disability.

"You only report it if you have proof, a video in which one can see that they call you a dyke or faggot, or in which they beat you up". Katy Pallàs, president of the LGTBI Families Federation, says that, although there are laws, the last word depends on the interpretation made by the judge when it comes to classify an aggression as a hate crime or not. This is what is happening with the murder of the young Galician Samuel, who was beaten to death and called a "faggot" but is currently considered an ordinary street fight.

In SOS Racismo they know about "under-reporting" and they turn it into figures: only 5% of migrants in a non-regularis ed situation may report a crime, and of those with papers, 45%. The victims come to the NGO to explain the episode of violence and discrimination, but when it comes to taking the step to formalise the complaint, they hold back because of distrust in the system, the conviction that it will not help, or fear of possible reprisals, explains the spokeswoman of the entity, Larissa Saud. In addition, a significant number of complaints of discrimination are against police and private security agents. The FRA also indicates that the slowness of the complaint, or the fact that it is too long, complicated, or an uncomfortable process, does not help.

According to the report, if one in 10 Europeans say they have been victims of physical attacks in the previous five years, the percentage rises to two in 10 when members of an ethnic minority, 19% of non-heterosexuals or 15% of immigrants are asked. The EU warns that in the case of male violence, the reporting rate is "particularly low". If more than a third of women over 15 living in the EU have suffered at least once physical or sexual violence, only about 14% of assaults are reported. The rest go unpunished.

To increase reporting rates, the European agency proposes that EU member states deploy and implement "immediate and effective" protection measures, but also facilitate the reporting process by establishing mechanisms to help and encourage not only victims but also witnesses of hate crimes to go to the police. Finally, it also calls for training the police and judges in diversity, so that they can deal with these types of crimes with knowledge and empathy.

Catalan Parliament condemns LGTBphobic crimes

The plenary session of the Catalan Parliament has approved this Wednesday a resolution declaring Catalonia a freedom area for LGBTIQ people and condemning LGBTIQphobic crimes. The initiative, presented by PSC, ERC, JxCat, CUP, ECP and Cs, has been approved with the votes of these groups and the PP, while Vox has voted against it.