Unia, the former centre for equal opportunities, received a record number of complaints relating to racism in 2020, 49% more than in 2019.
In total the centre received 3,684 complaints, relating to 2,081 individual events. That is slightly more than ten a day on average, and 49% more than the previous year.
Finally, Unia opened 956 unique case files. “And that is only the tip of the iceberg,” commented director Els Keytsman.
“We often receive different reports about one and the same fact,” she said. “For example, last year we were contacted 393 times about a particular tweet from Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang. He had reported via Twitter that the ‘racialising of the population at Hema was a fact,’ along with a photo from their brochure with dark-skinned people.”
Such examples of multiple complaints are commonplace, she said.
“The popularity of social media is often accompanied by gratuitous racism and xenophobia. We have noticed that even more during the corona crisis.”
Nonetheless, she sees improvement in the future, thanks to social and legal changes. Last year a judge allowed a ‘practical test’ by Unia as evidence in a case of discrimination in the housing market.
A practical test is where two calls are made to a person or company renting a property; the first from a person with a foreign name, the second from someone with a very Belgian name. In many cases, the person with the foreign name is told the property has already been rented. When the person with the Belgian name calls later, they are given an appointment to view.
In addition, Keytsman said, “Citizen movements such as Black Lives Matter are raising awareness that racism is not okay.”