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Why are racist incidents on the rise in Switzerland?

Why are racist incidents on the rise in Switzerland?
People hold a banner reading "We don't want anymore a racist world" as they take part in a rally on June 9, 2020 in Geneva, during a demonstration against racism and police brutality. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Switzerland’s Federal Commission against Racism (EKR) announced this week that the number incidents of racism reported to it rose by almost a quarter in 2023.

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In a new report published on Sunday, the EKR revealed that 876 incidents of racism had been reported to the body. In comparison, 708 incidents were reported to the EKR in 2022. 

That reflects a rise of 24 percent in the number of reported incidents.

The current conflict in the Middle East was highlighted explicitly as fuelling the rise in incidences of racism.

Some 69 reports related to anti-Arab racism, while anti-Muslim xenophobia was cited in 62 reports. There were also 46 incidents of anti-semitic abuse recorded last year

Read More: Switzerland acknowledges 'systemic racism' in the country

Another section of the report significantly identified right-wing populist political campaigns as a significant motivator of racist hate, promoted through flyers with xenophobic slogans or visual tropes. 

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Discrimination based on nationality or ethnicity constituted the largest share of reports at 387 reports, followed by anti-black racism with 327 documented incidents.

Additionally, 155 reports related to a person’s legal right to remain in Switzerland, while 137 reported discrimination based on gender. 

Read More: Are foreigners in Switzerland likely to experience some form of racism?

The EKR report also identified where these racist incidents were most likely to occur: Educational institutions, such as schools and universities, were the most frequent locations for incidents at 181 reports, followed by the workplace at 124 incidents and open public spaces at 113. 

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With almost two hundred of the 876 reported incidents taking place at schools and universities, Ursula Schneider-Schüttel, President of the EKR, had words of warning: 

“One finding from the report in particular deserves our attention: reports of racial discrimination at school are at the forefront this year. This is worrying.

“School should be where children and young people are protected from discrimination.

“We must therefore ask ourselves what responsibility educational institutions have in ensuring a non-discriminatory learning environment and what it takes to achieve this responsibility can be met.” 

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