Refugees struggle against exploitation

Safya Khan-Ruf - 02 05 17

Migrants are facing a number of barriers across European countries which lead many to be exploited and facing violent reprisals, a new report has found.

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a pan-European anti-racism organisation, published its 2015-2016 shadow report today, examining anti-migrant political discourse and the disproportionate impact of certain policies on migrants.

“Racialised migrants are bearing the brunt of increasingly restrictive migration policies and discourses. And this is having a destructive impact on their lives – from facing violent racist attacks to discrimination and exploitation in the labour market,” says Amel Yacef, ENAR Chair.

Discrimination, labour market restrictions, lack of recognition of qualifications and language limitations are all listed as barriers to migrants. Many remain unemployed or take jobs they are vastly overqualified for, according to the researchers.

Others end up working undeclared jobs when facing these difficulties, and often fall victim to exploitation. Integration and education are not “sufficient to override discrimination based on ethnicity and race,” the report states.

Anti-migrant sentiment

Over one million people sought asylum in the European Union in 2015. This coincides with rising support for far-right groups across Europe.

“[Far-right parties] are setting the tone of the debate on immigration, particularly related to Muslim migrants. This is resulting in anti-migrant discourses and policies being seen as acceptable and mainstreamed across the political spectrum,” the report states.

Several EU Member States have made it clear that irregular migrants are not welcome. Certain countries such as Italy and Croatia have not even implemented any integration strategies ensuring “they remain transit countries only”, the report shows.

Muslims migrants are increasingly reporting to the police due to “suspicious behaviour” according to the researchers. One interviewee in Sweden said:

“It feels like the media image around a migrant basically means, a Muslim. And that the coverage about Muslims, in this case people who have fled or come here because of conflicts, is associated with what has become known as extremism and jihadism.”

Fake news propagated by far-right-leaning websites have also contributed to the problem, the report notes. Lidia Maroporo, professor in Portugal said social media is shaping the way people see the world.

“If a social group is represented negatively in a recurrent way, this also promotes a negative image of this group in society, reinforcing stereotypes and strengthening the image of certain social groups as the other,” she said.


ENAR has a series of recommendations to reduce the exploitation and discrimination of migrants. These include publicly condemning politicians inciting hatred towards migrants, reducing ethnic profiling by the police and collecting better data across Europe on hate crimes that target migrants and their accommodations.

The report also calls on EU to stop using development aid to coerce non-EU governments in their migration agenda, “which may lead to serious human rights agenda”.

“The European Union and political leaders must stop the vicious circle of exclusion and hate and focus on long-term solutions to address hate crime and discrimination targeting migrants. At a deeper level, we need to question the racial biases underpinning European and national migration policies in order to ensure the real inclusion and participation of migrants in European society,” Yacef adds.


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