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Could racism be on the rise in Germany?

Discrimination against people bases on their ethnic origin has increased, the German anti-discrimination agency says in its annual report. This could warn serious consequences for society.

Early last week an American man by the name George Floyd was murdered by a white police man who pinned him to the ground while suffocating him by his knee. He died from asphyxiation. Many people in Germany were also shocked by footage revealed of the officer taking a good solid 9 minutes on the man’s neck while he pleaded for breath. This made millions of people across the country to take to the streets in protest over this unjust behaviour by the police. It sparked unaddressed issues of racism in society and even led to a temporary state of pause for the coronavirus pandemic social restrictions measures. Amid considerable media attention, they also decried racial discrimination in Germany. For the image of German society, too, has repeatedly been blemished by everyday racism, xenophobic riots and right-wing extremist attacks like those carried out by the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Recent statistics back up the protesters’ criticism and confirm a dismal trend: Racial discrimination has increased significantly in Germany. A report written by the German Federal Anti-Dissemination Agency (ADS) reported that such cases of racism in Germany have risen by almost 10%. Cases to do with racism and discrimination take up to 33% of the cases the agency received and deals with. And this number has been rising steadily as in 2016 it was already 25%.

Germany has an “ongoing problem with racial discrimination and does not give enough consistent legal support to victims,” said Bernhard Franke, the acting head of the anti-discrimination agency, when presenting the report. In the report, Franke wrote that 2019 was a year in which hatred and hostility towards particular groups left deep and painful traces like the murder of Walter Lubcke to the terrorist attack on a synagogue in Halle.

The annual report goes on to add that many of those affected have the feeling that the overall situation has not improved over the past years. They feel that although attacks and murders have shaken society, the worries, fears and experiences of exclusion had by people with a migration background are ultimately not taken seriously. Germany is still a long way from progress but it is not an unachievable dream. The ADS urged federal and state legislators to significantly improve both the legal position of those affected and the assistance available to them. It also said the framework for state protection and the legal consequences for violations must be more clearly defined.