Democracy & Justice

UN Demands that Spain end Racial Profiling of African People

According to a UN working group, Spain's efforts to reduce racial profiling have not gone far enough and need to be stepped up to meet UN requirements.

by Rights International Spain

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has presented a full report of its first fact-finding visit to Spain to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). The report concludes that "racial profiling of people of African descent is an endemic problem in Spain".

RIS demands that Spanish Government end racial profiling

Rights International Spain (RIS) had the opportunity to meet the Working Group during its visit and raise its concerns surrounding this issue, which is a priority for the organisation. The conclusion of the Working Group's report is in line with that of numerous international, European and national institutions, which have observed the widespread use of racial profiling in Spain. Various organisations that defend civil liberties and human rights have denounced this practice for a long time.

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, RIS and Afro-descendant and human rights organisations addressed a letter to the Ministry of the interior urging it to end racial profiling of people of African descent.

Measures so far have been insufficient

The Working Group acknowledges that although measures have been taken, they are insufficient. Experts say that the first thing to do is to define ethnic profiling as a discriminatory police practice and to prohibit it. The working group considers the provision included in the so-called "Gag Rule" insufficient, and it states it has actually had the opposite effect: the sanctions imposed as a result of this law have led to a decrease in people filing reports on discrimination, which has had an impact on investigations, prosecutions and reparation for victims.

One of the Working Group's proposals is to make agents fill out a form specifying the reason for the arrest or identification of an individual. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, this has proved effective in reducing racial profiling, and in 2013 the Spanish Ombudsman recommended that the National Police implement a similar system. In 2016 the National Police Force finally committed itself to establishing this new procedure throughout 2017. However, except for a few exceptions, like in the police stations in Fuenlabrada, Gerona and Móstoles, this scheme has not yet been employed. Madrid City Council will launch a pilot project to introduce the model in a district of the capital.

Spain obliged to implement UN recommendations

Another of the recommendations proposed by United Nations Experts is to create an independent mechanism to examine police actions, and offer training within the police forces aimed at preventing discriminatory practices.

The Working Group has also expressed concern on the summary returns from Ceuta and Melilla, and the fact that asylum seekers have no chance to seek international protection. The group recommended that the government end to all forms of summary returns, respect the rights of non-refoulement and access to procedures for identification and determination of refugee status. They are also concerned about immigration detention as a common form of "administrative detention" and recommended that the government end all forms of detention of migrants and asylum seekers.

It is important to remember that Spain is part of the UN system, which accepts visits by working groups and special rapporteurs to assess compliance with international human rights obligations. Therefore, it is obliged to implement the recommendations made by these bodies.