EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Racism towards minority groups in Europe is far more prevalent than previously reported in official statistics, with victims feeling they have little recourse to justice.
Those are the stark findings of a new report published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on Wednesday (22 April) based on research carried out in each of the EU's 27 member states last year.
"The survey reveals how large the ‘dark figure' of racist crime and discrimination really is in the EU. Official racism figures only show the tip of the iceberg," said FRA Director Morten Kjaerum.
Researchers for the report questioned immigrants and individuals from ethnic minorities about the levels of discrimination, harassment and racially motivated violence they had encountered over the last 12 months.
Of the total number respondents surveyed, 55 percent feel discrimination based on ethnic origin is widespread in their country and 37 per cent say they have personally experienced discrimination in the past year.
While 12 percent say they have personally experienced a racist crime in the past 12 months, the vast majority of these (80 percent) did not report the incident to the police.
"This means that the perpetrators go unpunished, victims do not obtain justice, and policy-makers are unable to take the appropriate action that prevents violations from recurring," said Mr Kjaerum.
Part of the reason for not reporting incidents say respondents is the belief that nothing will be done to improve their situation.
At the same time, an overwhelming majority of those citing discrimination also indicated they knew of no organisation that could offer them support or advice.
Individuals from the Roma ethnic group, currently estimated to number 12 million living in the EU, reported the highest levels of discrimination, with one in two respondents saying they were discriminated against in the last 12 months.
The report also shows that Roma have the highest unemployment rates and lowest education levels of the groups surveyed.
A high level of Sub-Saharan Africans (41 per cent) and North African respondents (36 per cent) also say they were the subject of discrimination.
Countries where respondents feel most vulnerable include Italy where 94 per cent of North Africans consider discrimination against them to be widespread, while in Hungary 90 per cent of Roma report similar feelings.
In France, 88 per cent of North Africans and 87 per cent of sub-Saharan Africans questioned said they had experienced discrimination.