Belgium’s Minister for Equal Opportunity, Kris Peeters, on Thursday launched a nationwide campaign against racism and discrimination. The “Stop Racism” campaign, which will be run on social networks and on the screens of the national railway company, SNCB, aims to show through video clips that “there is nothing to be gained from racism”. An Internet site, www.stopracisme.be , has also been created to raise awareness on racism and discrimination and to remind Belgians of the legal framework related to such abuses.
The new campaign was mounted in collaboration with UNIA, the Equal Opportunity Cell, and the Foreign Ministry. It comes in the wake of a sharp increase in reported racist incidents, which have gone up by 55% in five years, UNIA reported on Thursday. A total of 866 cases of racism were opened by UNIA in 2018, 11% more than the year before, the independent public institution against racism and for equal opportunity said.
Last year one-third of the incidents reported to UNIA had to do with racism. Close to a quarter took place in the media and on the Internet, with 40% occurring on Facebook. A quarter took place during the purchasing of goods and service, for example when leasing homes, and 19% were work-related.
“The increasing number of reports does not necessarily mean that racism is on the increase, but that more and more people have plucked up the courage to inform UNIA,” the institution’s co-director, Els Keytsmans, noted.
In 2018, UNIA submitted 16 cases to the courts. These were “cases too serious to be limited to a negotiation, such as racist attacks or discriminatory situations that could not be resolved through negotiation,” fellow co-director Patrick Charlier explained.
“Racism exists and must not be taboo in election campaigns,” Charlier stressed. “This is the time to recall that Belgium still does not have an action plan for fighting against racism.”
Victims of racism have been waiting for such a plan since 2001 and wish to see it finally included in the coalition agreements that will follow the elections, the UNIA co-director added.