Police forces across the European Union have been accused of illegal “ethnic profiling” and discrimination after a survey found they were disproportionately stopping and searching members of various ethnic, religious and other minority groups.
A report published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), an independent organization, has for the first time highlighted racial disparities in police stops across many EU countries.
The agency found that people from ethnic minorities, Muslims, those who do not identify as heterosexual, men and people aged 16 to 29 were being stopped and searched at disproportionately higher rates across the EU, it said in a press release on Tuesday.
The report was based on the EU Minorities and Discrimination survey of roughly 35,000 people from across the EU, the United Kingdom and North Macedonia.
The likelihood of being stopped varied significantly based on people’s backgrounds, it found. The report said that according to the survey, police stopped almost 50% of people from certain minorities in some countries.
FRA director Michael O’Flaherty said the report came at a time of increased scrutiny of police. “One year ago, the Black Lives Matter protests underscored the need to tackle racism and discrimination that are still all too common in our societies,” he said. “It is time to rebuild trust among all communities and ensure police stops are always fair, justified and proportionate.”
The report found that those who experienced racial profiling also tend to trust public authorities less than those who do not.
While the survey found that 14% of all people across the EU were searched or asked for their identity documents when stopped by the police in the 12 months before taking the survey, that number rose to 34% for people from ethnic minorities.
People who identified as South Asian in Greece were the most likely of all groups in all countries to experience what they described as racial profiling by the police — 89% said they had that experience in the five years before taking the survey.
Roma people in the Netherlands and Portugal also reported high levels of discrimination, with 86% and 84% of respondents in the two countries saying they have been racially profiled by police.
The report showed that disparities in policing stops vary across different EU member countries. It also highlighted stark differences in perceived treatment during police stops. While 60% of respondents from the EU’s “general population” felt that police treated them respectfully during a stop, that figure dropped to 46% for ethnic minorities.
The report singled out Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden for the starkest differences in perception of police treatment during a stop.