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Integration Centre calls for legislation on hate crimes as racism figures rise

They also want to see the introduction of racism as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

Image: Stop racism image via Shutterstock

THE INTEGRATION CENTRE has called for the government to legislate for hate crimes to tackle the problem of racism as figures for racist crime began to rise again in 2011 for the first time in four years.

Figures from 2007 onwards were slowly falling until 2011 when there was an increase from 127 to 142 racist crimes reported. The numbers of these crimes reported up until September 2012 stood at 83 but the Integration Centre said it expects total figures for last year will show another increase on 2011.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Killian Forde, CEO of the Integration Centre said the figures were an indication of the growing levels of racism in Ireland but said instances of racism were still severely under-reported.

“A big problem is that lots of people don’t report a crime and when they do, it is often not recorded by gardaí unless they decide to investigate it for prosecution,” he said.

“There is no dropdown menu for incidents of racist behaviour and that needs to be simplified so we can capture trends and can direct resources if one area is worse than another.”

Forde continued:

The problem is that the current legislation isn’t sufficient to deal with the situation and the Minister has been asked repeatedly by various NGOs to cover hate crime which would include homophobia, sectarianism etc as well as racism. These calls are coming from across the spectrum of human rights lobby groups but it has been made clear that there is no intention to bring it through.

Forde said the difficulty with legislating for hate crimes is that the definition can change and it can be hard to prove that a person incited hatred in other people.

He said that, apart from legislation, there is a need for a change in sentencing with the introduction of racism as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

With the recent shift in figures in the last two years, Forde said the recession is a major contributing factor to the rise in racism in Ireland.

“It’s a perfect storm and I’m surprised it didn’t manifest itself earlier because in a recession when you have such a large immigrant population, and this is seen all over Europe, they are used as scapegoats,” he said.

“People blame migrants for certain things and there is what we call a pipeline of hatred which starts with a feeling of unease, people are made to feel uncomfortable, then you have verbal abuse, damage to property and eventually assault.”

Read: New primary school anti-racism initiative launched>

Read: Four in five people fail to report incidents of racism – report>

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