Racism Is Far From Being a Thing of the Past in Spain

A review of racial discrimination will take place this month by the UN. Rights International Spain has submitted a report highlighting principle concerns in this area.
Rights International Spain has submitted a shadow report to be considered by the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in the context of its upcoming review of Spain on April 26 and 27.

Despite opinions to the contrary, racism is far from being a thing of the past in Spain. Below we summarize some principle concerns.

In Spain, there is no equality and non-discrimination law

A bill was proposed in Congress in 2011 for a law of equality and non-discrimination. Had it passed, it would have been a great step forward in combatting discrimination, as it would have forced our legal system to uphold Spain’s international obligations in this regard. However, the bill was paralyzed throughout the legislature, in which the governing party held an absolute majority, leaving victims of racism and xenophobia unprotected.

No effective independent mechanism exists to combat discrimination

In Spain there is a Council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination. However, this entity is not effective in the struggle against racism, as it is not independent and does not have the power to file complaints or to litigate.

Spain lacks a unified policy to combat racism

The government has not approved any comprehensive and united policy against racism. Without political will, it is impossible to eradicate racism.

No mechanism to collect required data

Without disaggregated data on the ethnic composition of the population and on discriminatory behaviors, it is impossible to correctly design effective policies against racism. The authorities claim that collecting such data would be a violation of laws that protect the privacy of personal data.

However, the EU itself (whence come these data protection laws) has repeatedly stated that these laws do not impede states from collecting data on the ethnic composition of the population as long as data collection is anonymous and respects a series of privacy safeguards.

Police lack training in confronting racism

The training in human rights (including anti-discrimination) that members of the police receive is extremely poor. Few teaching hours are dedicated to these issues, and they are taught only in theory; police receive little or no training on how to respect human rights and combat discrimination in practice.

Ethnic profiling

In Spain, if you are not white or "Caucasian," it is much more likely that you will be stopped by the police, even if you have done nothing wrong at all. Despite the repeated denunciation of unjustified use of ethnic profiling by the police, and the fact that Spanish, European and international human rights institutions have appealed to Spain to take measures to eliminate this kind of stops, there has been no response from the authorities.

These stops, which are illegal and work to stigmatize part of the population, have also been demonstrated to be ineffective in crime prevention.

Mass deportations of migrants and refugees are carried out

Spain carries out mass deportations, thus violating the human rights (such as the right to legal counsel and to asylum procedures) of migrant and refugee persons who enter through the borders at Ceuta and Melilla.

When these practices were first reported in the media, the government—far from taking effective measures to guarantee the application of international law and Spanish migration law—passed an amendment to ‘legalize’ (even though what is illegal cannot easily be legalized) these mass deportations, referred to as "hot deportations."

Stigmatized and discriminated Arab population

Some of the measures that the government has adopted recently in order to fight “jihadist” terrorism, such as the National Strategic Plan Against Violent Radicalization, may in practice serve to stigmatize Arab and Muslim communities through the use of racial, ethnic or religious profiling.

In addition to threatening the human rights of these groups, these practices have proven ineffective in the struggle against terrorism.

Crimes go unreported for fear of being deported

When a person whose administrative status is irregular suffers a crime and reports it to the police, the police may file an administrative action against that person for undocumented residence. For this reason many undocumented migrants do not report crimes for fear of reprisals, even when they have suffered racist crimes. This means the aggressors enjoy impunity and the victims have no access to reparations.

Many are deprived of liberty

Migrants with irregular residency status may be held in Foreigner Internment Centers without having committed any crime. This is a discriminatory policy which should be abolished as a violation of human rights.

Roma segregation in schools

Reports show that there are some schools in which practically the entire student body (or at least a percentage much higher than in the population of the municipality in which the school is located) is of Roma or migrant origin.