Race Council Cymru: “Under-reporting” racism in Wales (and Finland)

by , under Enrique

The Police College of Finland may soon publish its hate crime statistics for 2011. Considering that hate crimes reported to the police in 2010 fell by 15% to 860 versus 1,007 cases from the previous year, one could ask how reliable such statistics are. Do they reveal hate crime cases in Finland or police attitudes towards hate crime? 

I would draw the attention of the Finnish police authorities to a Race Council Cymru study published by the BBC, which reveals how racism goes “under-reported” in Wales.

Ignorance of one’s rights, language barriers, fear of reprisals and lack of trust are some reasons why black and visible minorities don’t report racist harassment to the police, according to the study.

Heaven Crawley, director of the Centre for Migration Policy Research at Swansea University, said that not only did people endure “everyday racism,” they adapted to such abuse.  Adapting to such harassment could encourage one to not use public transport, cover up one’s skin so people cannot tell a person belongs to a minority, young women may prefer not to wear the hijab because it targets them for racist abuse.

People with ethnic minority backgrounds account for about 4% of Wales’ 3 million population, which is in percentage terms quite similar to the amount of immigrants (3.4%) living in Finland.

As I listened to the report, I could not avoid some parallels with what some immigrants had reported to me in Finland.

Below are some important findings of the “everyday racism” immigrants and visible minorities suffer in Wales:

  • When they get on the bus they may suffer verbal abuse;
  • They may be walking down the street and people may be shouting at them;
  • Racist abuse of minorities is pervasive at the workplace and school;
  • Instead of complaining, minorities don’t complain to the police but adapt their behavior;
  • Only a minority (one in five) report such incidents to the police.

Crawley cited the following factors why such cases weren’t reported to the authorities:

  • They didn’t know they could;
  • If they reported their incident they wouldn’t be taken seriously by the police;
  • Those that reported these incidents said no action had been taken.

Since it is possible that the “low” number of hate crimes reported to the police in Finland may reveal the tip of the iceberg of a more serious problem, such statistics may sadly reveal how little the police are doing to address the issue.

Add to the latter the negative debate in Finland concerning immigrants as well as Minister Päivi Räsänen’s tacit approval of ethnic profiling by the police, it’s pretty clear that there is a serious issue that needs addressing by society.