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21 March: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

A wave of violence against foreigners increases.

The attacks on migrants living in Poland that have been repeatedly happening over the last several months are an effect of the public debate about the refugee crisis. Although the announced refugees from the Middle East are yet to appear in Poland, xenophobia and aggression flooded the Internet and became a pretext for verbal and physical attacks on people with a darker skin colour. Founders of the Association of Multicultural Families, an NGO closely cooperating with the HFHR, are increasingly more worried about their loved ones – spouses and children – even though until recently they have been living undisturbed in Poland. Violence erupts in the streets, on public transport or even at student homes.

By ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Poland undertook to take any measures that prevent racial, national and ethnic hatred and prohibit the endorsement and incitement of racial discrimination. This obligation applies in particular to public authorities and institutions. At the same time, over the last months Polish political scene has become a forum of xenophobic statements by not only representatives of minor political groupings but also sitting parliamentarians.

Anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic content can be found on social media profiles of some deputies. There is even an offer of a parliamentarian’s assistance for any person who conducts a vigilante arrest of “suspicious migrants”. Although the main thrust of these statements targets Arabs and Muslims, the ensuing violence affects Indians, Palestinians, Pakistani, Syrians, Chileans or even South Europeans and Polish women who are in relationships with foreigners. These people are usually not refugees, but long-standing entrepreneurs, artists, doctors and parents of Polish children.

In some cities – Poznań, Wrocław, Warsaw – local authorities respond to violent acts and expressed solidarity with the victims. “Such gestures are enormously important symbolically, but are not a sufficient way to stop the violence”, says Agnieszka Mikulska-Jolles, HFHR expert. “What is needed is a more robust response from law enforcement authorities and preventive measures in place, which will prevent another acts of violence from happening and enable an effective prosecution of perpetrators and inciters of violence. The violent wave will not be contained as long as it is fuelled by statements of public figures, including parliamentary deputies, politicians and celebrities, expressed on the pretext of protecting Poland against ‘illegal immigrants’”, she adds.

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