Sweeping Protection against Race Discrimination

Article excerpt

Last week, the European Parliament approved the most far reaching piece of anti-racism legislation to affect Britain since the 1976 Race Relations Act.

The Race Directive is a resounding response to the rise of right-wing extremism.

The new laws will ban racial harassment and victimisation, as well as introducing sweeping protection against race discrimination in education, employment, access to grants, social protection and social security.

Individuals will for the first time have the right to take civil proceedings if they are harassed or victimised on the grounds of race. The legislation also overturns the Thatcher Government's ban which denied public authorities the right to require companies to demonstrate compliance with anti-discrimination laws before awarding a contract.

It shifts the burden of proof in civil race discrimination so that once a case has been proven to the satisfaction of a court or tribunal, the onus will now be on the accused to prove their innocence. It can be difficult to obtain evidence in discrimination cases and the hope is that this legislation will change this.

And the legislation gives voluntary organisations the right to bring race discrimination cases against the courts on behalf of individual complainants.

The directive has been widely backed by organisations such as the Commission for Racial Equality in the UK.

One of my responsibilities in the European Parliament is to frame anti-discrimination initiatives and develop community programmes. I welcome this action because it demonstrates that Europe is serious about the long-term eradication of discrimination and racism.

In recent years, we have witnessed across Europe a steady rise in racist crime, violence and discrimination. According to recent figures, race hate crimes have increased by 50 per cent in the West Midlands this year. …