Open Letter to President Ursula von der Leyen: The European Commission must prioritise addressing police violence and structural racism in the EU

ILGA-Europe, ENAR and 150 organisations across Europe co-signed this open letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to raise our serious concerns regarding the lack of reaction of EU leaders regarding police brutality against people of colour in Europe as well as institutional and structural racism.

Dear Ms. von der Leyen,

As organisations working for an equal and inclusive Europe, we would like to raise our serious concerns regarding the lack of real reaction of EU leaders regarding police brutality against people of colour in Europe as well as institutional and structural racism, following the killing of George Floyd in the United States and ensuing solidarity protests in Europe and across the world. We were appalled by the statement by EU Commissioner Schinas which delegitimises the public outcry against police brutality and institutional racism in Europe.

On 3 June 2020, Commissioner Schinas was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that events such as the killing of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the wave of demonstrations against it, were “not likely?.?.?.?to happen in Europe at this scale”. “I do not think that we have issues now in Europe that blatantly pertain to police brutality or issues of race transcending into our systems. But we do have an issue in Europe, which is the issue of inequalities and income distribution — making the best for everyone of what we have.”

As an EU Commissioner, Mr. Schinas should have shown empathy with the victims of widespread racism in the EU. Instead his reckless statement has denied racialised communities across the EU the recognition of the oppression they are subjected to on a daily basis.

His statement is a blatant denial of the existence of police brutality and discriminatory policing in Europe, despite evidence of this reality, including from EU bodies themselves, such as the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, which found that one quarter of all persons of African descent surveyed were stopped by the police in the five years before the survey, and among these, 41% characterised the most recent stop as racial profiling. In France, young men perceived as black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be controlled by police than others. In the UK, data shows that the proportion of black and ethnic minority deaths in custody as a result of use of force or restraint by the police, is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. Roma people across Europe also experience racial profiling and police violence. This is not a new issue. For decades, ENAR and anti-racist organisations on the ground have been reporting what racialised communities experience at the hands of the police across the European Union: discriminatory stop and search, abuse, violence and even death. So far, however, there has been little visibility and no public response.

EU and member state leaders pointed fingers at the United States for the killing of George Floyd and police brutality, while maintaining a deafening silence on the situation in their own countries, going as far as denying that police violence is an issue in Europe. This lack of reaction reflects a denial of long-standing existence of systems of oppression in European societies, of historical injustices and persistent racial inequalities in areas of housing, healthcare, employment and education, as well as repeated experiences of state violence and impunity.

The bare minimum that EU leaders should do is acknowledge the existence of and publicly condemn discriminatory and violent police practices, in particular when it results in death. But most European political leaders were not even able to do that.

There is an urgent need to ensure fair and effective policing practices for all communities. EU member state governments must adopt measures to combat and prevent racism in law enforcement. This includes severe sanctions in cases of police violence, ensuring fair and independent investigations, prohibiting racial profiling, and increasing racial diversity and trainings within the police force. The EU and its Member States should also collect equality data to make visible where racial profiling, disproportionate use of force and deaths following an interaction with the police are happening. Such data should enable intersectional cross-analysis, for example to identify specific experiences of racialised women.

Twenty years ago, the European Union was at the forefront of the fight against racial discrimination when it adopted landmark laws to prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnic origin. In a time of rising racist violence, persistent discrimination and racial inequality, the European Commission must have a stronger, more public commitment to address police violence and structural racism in Europe.

We would be happy to meet you to discuss our concerns in more detail and propose solutions, and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Taylor, Chair of the European Network Against Racism

Co-signed by:
1. ABVV-ACOD Cultuur, Belgium
2. ACLI-Vlaanderen vzw, Belgium
3. Aditus Foundation, Malta
4. Africa Solidarity Centre, Ireland
5. African and Caribbean Diversity, United Kingdom
6. African Media Association, Malta
7. AGE Platform Europe
8. AIF+ – Actieve Interculturele Federatie vzw, Belgium
9. AKAZ – Kazumba Association, Portugal
10. Alliance Citoyenne, France
11. Altera, Italy
12. Andalucía Acoge, Spain
13. ANTIGONE – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non-Violence, Greece
14. Anti-Racist Forum, Finland
15. Apna Haq, United Kingdom
16. Arciragazzi Portici, Italy
17. ASKV Refugee Support, Netherlands
18. Asociación Musulmana por los Derechos Humanos (AMDEH), Spain
19. Asociacion Nacional Presencia Gitana, Spain
20. Asociación Rumiñahui, Spain
21. Association of African Students in Europe (AASE)
22. ASTI asbl – Associations de soutien aux travailleurs immigrés, Luxembourg
23. Ba Omar, Ecowasflanders, Belgium
24. Balbriggan Integration Forum, Ireland
25. BAMKO-CRAN asbl, Belgium
26. Ban Ying Koordinations- und Beratungsstelle gegen Menschenhandel e.V., Germany
27. BePax, Belgium
28. Café Congo, Belgium
29. CCME, the Churches´ Commission for Migrants in Europe
30. CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe
31. Center for Equality Advancement, Lithuania
32. Center for Intersectional Justice, Germany
33. Center for Migration, Gender and Justice, Germany
34. Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Germany
35. Centre de Médiation des Gens du Voyage et des Roms, Belgium
36. Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia
37. Centre Régional de Verviers pour l’Intégration, Belgium
38. Centre Régional d’Intégration de Charleroi, Belgium
39. Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en Belgique (CCIB), Belgium
40. Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF), France
41. Collectif féministe Kahina, Belgium
42. Collectif Mémoire Coloniale, Belgium
43. Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens (CSC), Belgium
44. Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires (CRAN), France
45. Counsellor Sanchia Alasia, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, United Kingdom
46. Discrimination Law Association, United Kingdom
47. Dokumentations- und Beratungsstelle Islamfeindlichkeit & antimuslimischer Rassismus, Austria
48. Each One Teach One e.V. (EOTO), Germany
49. Een Andere Joodse Stem (EAJS), Belgium
50. ELLA vzw, Belgium
51. EMCEMO, Netherlands
52. ENAR Belgium
53. Equal Opportunities Initiative Association, Bulgaria
54. European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
55. European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW)
56. European Network of Women of African Descent (ENWAD)
57. European Network On Religion and Belief
58. European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network
59. European Roma Information Office (ERIO)
60. European Roma Rights Centre
61. European Women’s Lobby
62. Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia – FAGiC, Spain
63. FMV vzw, Belgium
64. Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO)
65. Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Malta
66. Fundación Al Fanar para el Conocimiento Árabe, Spain
67. Furia, Belgium
68. Generation 2.0 RED, Greece
69. Greek Forum of Migrants, Greece
70. Grupo EducAR – Anti Racist Education, Portugal
71. Hand in Hand tegen racisme, Belgium
72. Hart Boven Hard, Belgium
73. Help Refugees, United Kingdom
74. Human Rights League (Liga za ?udské práva), Slovakia
75. IDB Initiative für ein diskriminierungsfreies Bildungswesen, Austria
76. Il Razzismo è una brutta storia, Italy
77. ILGA-Europe
78. In IUSTITIA, Czech Republic
79. Inequalities Research Network, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
80. InMenteItaca, Italy
81. Instituto de Asuntos Culturales – IACE, Spain
82. Integratipact vzw, Belgium
83. Integro Association, Bulgaria
84. Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Belgium
85. Irish Network Against Racism, Ireland
86. Jesuit Refugee Service Europe
87. Jesuit Refugee Service Malta
88. Job@Ubuntu, Belgium
89. Kaneza Karen, former ENAR board member, Belgium
90. KARAMAH EU
91. Killion Munyama, Polish MP
92. King Brenda, ACDiversity, United Kingdom
93. KISA – Action for equality, support, anti-racism, Cyprus
94. Kopin – Koperazzjoni Internazzjonali, Malta
95. Kreativ Research Association-Center for Media Studies and Social Research, Romania
96. La Voix des Rroms, France
97. Lallab, France
98. Le Monde des Possibles, Belgium
99. Ligue des droits humains, Belgium
100. Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta
101. Merhaba, Belgium
102. Migrant Tales, Finland
103. Migrant Women Association, Malta
104. Minderhedenforum, Belgium
105. MOC, Belgium
106. Movimento di Cooperazione Educativa di Torino, Italy
107. MRAX ASBL, Mouvement contre le Racisme, l’Antisémitisme et la Xénophobie, Belgium
108. Muslim Association of Greece, Greece
109. Mwinda Kitoko vzw, Belgium
110. Netzwerk Rassismus und Diskriminierungsfreies Bayern e.V., Germany
111. Nevo Parudimos Association, Romania
112. NiLi, Network Italiano dei Leader per l’Inclusione, Italy
113. Objectif, mouvement pour l’égalité des droits asbl, Belgium
114. ORBIT vzw, Belgium
115. Pan-African Movement for Justice, Sweden
116. Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM)
117. Por Ti Mujer, Spain
118. Quaker Council for European Affairs
119. Queer Base – Welcome & Support for LGBTIQ Refugees, Austria
120. Rainbowhouse Brussels, Belgium
121. Red Acoge, Spain
122. Red Española de Inmigración y Ayuda al Refugiado, Spain
123. Refugee Rights Europe
124. Reghif Mouhad, Bruxelles Panthères, Belgium
125. Regional Roma Educational Youth Association – RROMA, North Macedonia
126. Rete21marzo, Italy
127. REVIBRA Europe – European Support Network to Brazilian women in Europe
128. Roma Active Albania
129. Roma Community Centre, Lithuania
130. Roma Education Fund
131. Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative REDI
132. Roots vzw, Belgium
133. Samenlevingsopbouw, Belgium
134. SEER vzw, Belgium
135. SHARE Forum, Belgium
136. Siempre-Making Latin Women Visible, Belgium
137. Slovo 21, Czech Republic
138. SolidarityNow, Greece
139. SOS Malta, Malta
140. Stichting OCAN, Netherlands
141. Stichting voor mensen zonder verblijfsvergunning – STIL Utrecht, Netherlands
142. Tayush, Belgium
143. Uganda Association of Ireland, Ireland
144. UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab – People of of African Descent and the SDGs e-team
145. Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique (UPJB), Belgium
146. Vaiya Alfiaz, former coordinator of the EP Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup
147. Victoria Deluxe vzw, Belgium
148. Vie Féminine, Belgium
149. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, Kosovo
150. Waterford Integration Services, Ireland
151. WoW e.V., Germany
152. CeRAIC, Belgium

See also

Report

Intersections: The LGBTI II Survey – Lesbians Analysis

Disaggregated data, which can look deeply into the lived experiences of marginalised people, is a key demand of LGBTI and other human rights groups. With […]
read more
Blog

#BiVisibilityDay 2022: Discrimination and bi people at the intersections

In our analysis of the data from the largest LGBTI survey carried in Europe, we’ve found that bi people, particularly those with intersecting identities, experience discrimination in large numbers.
read more
Blog

6 Ways Forward for LGBTI Organisations to be Inclusive of People With Disabilities

BeLonG To, the leading Irish organisation for LGBT young people is on the vanguard of working on the instersection of LGBTI and disability. Here we share their journey so far, and some great tips for for LGBTI organisations who want to be inclusive of people with disabilities in their work.
read more
Blog

5 profound lessons we learned from working with disabled LGBTI activists and organisations

Making our work more inclusive is at the core of ILGA-Europe’s purpose. This is especially true in the case of disabled LGBTI people, who continue to be marginalised in our movement. In this blog, we share some of our learnings from working alongside disabled LGBTI activists. If you are part of a queer rights organisation, this may be particularly useful for you!
read more
Blog

#IDPD2021: Meet these powerful activists in the intersection of LGBTI and disabilities!

Dina, Ingrid and Louise are three LGBTI activists with disabilities based in different parts of Europe. They’re fighting for disabled LGBTI people to have a seat in LGBTI movements, and for equal rights in society. This International Day of Persons With Disabilities, they tell us about their aims and activism, and how can everyone be an ally under their motto: Nothing about us without us!
read more
Blog

The Disturbing Inequality of Being Older and LGBTI

Many older LGBTI’s remain invisible to other elderly people, while suffering ageism within their own LGBTI communities and legal and socio-economic barriers in their countries. To mark International Day of Older Persons on October 1, we look at the worrying obstacles LGBTI people may face as they age in Europe, even in countries where LGBTI rights are ensured.
read more
News

Join our webinar on community organising for older LGBTI persons

We invite LGBTI organisations, groups and activists involved in community organising to participate in our webinar on ‘Community organising for older LGBTI persons’ on Friday, October 1 at 11 AM (CEST).
read more
Blog

Where are my rights? These essential maps chart the recognition of LGBTI people across the globe

Every year, ILGA-Europe publishes our Rainbow Map, charting LGBTI rights in 49 European countries. But we’re not the only benchmarking map on the scene. From sexual orientation laws in the world to inclusive churches in Europe, these charts depict the state of LGBTI rights and more across the world.
read more
Blog

Queer and the Media: Talking to BBC LGBT Correspondent, Ben Hunte

In our latest Podcast, BBC LGBT Correspondent, Ben Hunte sat down with us to talk about the relationship between the media and LGBTI issues, why some stories get all the attention to the detriment of others, the rise of anti-trans voices in newspapers and broadcasting, and ways we might get the real diversity of LGBTI stories picked up. Read more, and listen below!
read more
Blog

#SexWork in Europe: “We are still asking for the basic things: housing, work, and respect for our identities”

To mark #InternationalSexWorkersDay on June 2, we talked to Sabrina Sánchez, trans migrant sex worker based in Spain, on her journey, the pandemic and why sex workers rights are central to the LGBTI movement.
read more
Blog

How to build a fairer, healthier world during a global pandemic

On 7 April, in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, we celebrated World Health Day with the motto: “Building a fairer, healthier world”. But […]
read more
News

Joint statement: 27th of January, International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Every 27th of January, the world pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and reaffirms the unwavering commitment to counter antisemitism, antigypsyism, racism, and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence.
read more
Blog

Voices of ILGA-Europe: This inspirational LGBTI activist says being bisexual is a challenge

Adopted from Sri Lanka to a family in the Netherlands when she was just ten days old, Cherine Mathot survived childhood cancer which left her with a disability, and she came out as bisexual at the age of 15. In advance of International Women’s Day this coming Sunday (March 8), Cherine tells us how her experiences have informed her work for the LGBTI organisation COC Nederlands.
read more
Blog

Activism on the intersections: Being part of the indigenous Sámi community and LGBTI

February 6 is Sámi National Day, when indigenous communities from the Sápmi region in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia commemorate the first Sámi congress, which was held in 1917. LGBTI Sámi activist, Anne Olli tells us what it means to be at the intersection of two minorities –and what you can do to be a Sámi ally!
read more
News

Funding opportunity to support D/deaf and disabled LGBTI activism in Europe and Central Asia

ILGA-Europe is inviting organisations and groups from Europe and Central Asia to apply for this new funding opportunity to support D/deaf and disabled LGBTI activism*. The last day to submit your application (deadline) is Monday 10 February 2020.
read more
Campaign

Gay vs God?

Breaking down myths about religion and identities of LGBTI people #GayVsGod “It’s a matter of Gay vs God.” How many times have you heard statements […]
read more
Campaign

Silver Rainbow

What is Silver Rainbow? The campaign aims to raise awareness of the specific needs of older LGBTI persons and to share the best resources on […]
read more
Report

The right to freedom of religion or belief and its intersection with other rights

This paper was commissioned by ILGA-Europe, to examine how the right to freedom of religion or belief intersects with other human rights, including the rights […]
read more
Report

Intergenerational Dialogue with(in) the LGBT Community

This report is the final outcome of the Age Project in which the findings – in particular the outcomes of the two round tables and […]
read more