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Spain must make a priority the fight against racism, now more than ever – UN expert

MADRID / GENEVA (28 January 2013) - United Nations Special Rapporteur Mutuma Ruteere today called on the Spanish authorities at national, regional, provincial and local levels to make a priority the fight against racial intolerance in the country. In the face of the economic crisis, he also urged them not to backtrack on the significant progress achieved in addressing the problem of racism and xenophobia.

“It is crucial that Spain makes the agenda of combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance a priority,” Mr. Ruteere said* at the end of his official visit to the country. “In particular, there is a need for a clear and more visible political leadership in combating racism and xenophobia. The struggle against racism cannot be effective unless it is led by the most senior political leadership.”

“The economic crisis should not become the reason for rolling back progress in the fight against racism and xenophobia,” the expert said, while acknowledging that the crisis has put pressure on the Government and severely affected the Spanish society. “There is already an ongoing dynamic that the Government should seriously take into consideration in order to avoid a deterioration of the situation with regard to racism in Spain.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that the current situation has led to incidents of scapegoating of some vulnerable groups such as migrants and asylum seekers as being the cause of the economic hardships, besides the loss of financial support to groups working on the issues of racism and xenophobia. “As events elsewhere have demonstrated, blaming vulnerable groups for the economic crisis can create a climate of racial hostility and violence against such groups,” he warned.

“The emergence of hate speech and xenophobic discourse among politicians and political leaders was also brought to my attention during the visit,” the human rights expert said. “Political leaders have a responsibility to strongly denounce such discourse, including when it comes from within their own ranks, and I call upon Spain to strengthen mechanisms for dealing with such utterances.”

“Stigmatization of certain groups including migrants and the propagation of racial prejudice and negative stereotypes by the media has also been reported. More needs to be done in order to prevent the negative portrayal of migrants in the media, including their criminalization,” he stressed.

Regarding the situation of the Roma people, the expert noted that some of them continue to face significant challenges in the enjoyment of their rights including in the fields of housing, and access to employment which became more and more difficult in this time of economic crisis. “Special attention should also be paid to non-Spanish Roma people who are still marginalized and facing hostility from the population in some places, including those from Portugal, Romania, and other countries,” he said.

“The economic crisis has resulted in the rolling back of gains in human rights of migrants who face a higher rate of unemployment and are confronted with serious housing challenges,” Mr. Ruteere said, while urging the Spanish authorities to address an emerging de facto segregation of migrant neighborhoods.

“Spain should continue to pay special attention to the protection of the rights of the most vulnerable migrants including unaccompanied minors and women who found themselves trafficked for sexual exploitation,” the rights expert noted, drawing attention to the detention of irregular migrants, including women, in Aliens Internment Centres, which in his view pose a number of human rights challenges.

The Special Rapporteur also called for increased attention to the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in Ceuta and Melilla, where asylum seekers in particular are faced with long delays in the processing of their asylum requests. “There is also a different approach to asylum in the Spanish mainland and in Ceuta and Melilla,” Mr. Ruteere pointed out.

“Respect for the dignity and human rights of the irregular migrants working in the agricultural area should be a high priority for Spain,” he said, “while paying particular attention to the increased vulnerability of migrant women who work and live in greenhouses in Almería, and are exposed to violence, including sexual violence and de facto prostitution.”

The expert called for a long term human rights solution to the working and living conditions of migrants based in the area of Poblenov in Barcelona, where they live in inhumane and degrading conditions, and the situation of forced evictions in the areas of Cañada Real and Puerta de Hierro in Madrid. “These situations are simply unacceptable and Spain should find a comprehensive solution for these victims. In this regard adequate information, genuine consultation and effective participation of the victims are important,” he stressed.

During his eight-day visit, Mr. Ruteere held meetings in Madrid, Melilla, Ceuta, Almeria, and Barcelona, where he met with representatives from the Spanish Government, at the national, regional, provincial and local levels, the legislative, judicial branches, security forces, the national Ombudsman, the regional ombudsman of Andalucía and Cataluña, UN entities, and NGOs as well as community members and other groups and individuals working in the field of racism.

The Special Rapporteur findings and recommendations will be reflected in his report to the Human Rights Council in June 2013.

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any Government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/rapporteur/index.htm

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12953&LangID=E

OHCHR Country page – Spain: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/ESIndex.aspx

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