Italy: UN experts laud humanitarian response, urge stronger political will in combating racial discrimination

Differences exist between the legal framework to counter racism, and on-the-ground findings, the United Nations Working Group of experts on people of African descent said following a five-day official visit* to Italy.

Rome, June 05, 2015.- “We commend in particular the Government’s policy to respond to the migrants crisis and in particular the increase in search and rescue operations, which has saved thousands of lives,” noted Mireille Fanon Mendes France, Chairperson of the Working Group.

At the same time, the Working Group urged the Italian Parliament to publicly condemn racist and xenophobic acts and for the government to ensure accountability and an effective remedy to counter any tendency, especially by politicians, to stigmatize and negatively stereotype people of African descent or use racist propaganda for political purposes.

“Too often in official discourse, people of African descent are not recognized as a specific group at risk of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia and related intolerance,” the Working Group said.

“We encourage the government of Italy to undertake impact-oriented activities in the framework of the International Decade for People of African descent to bridge the existing gaps between policies and practice, including through the implementation of relevant recommendations for recognition, justice and development of people of African descent,” the Working Group stated.

During its mission 1-5 June, the human rights experts visited Rome, Milan and Catania, and met representatives of the Government, civil society, UNHCR and the Italian Red Cross. It also visited a centre for Sudanese refugees in Rome, witnessed the reception of new arrivals at the Catania port and visited the Mineo reception centre for asylum seekers and refugees.
The Working group will present a report containing its findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2016.

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