Racism Report 2007: Racism as Kavaliersdelikt

28 03 2008

ZARAPhoto (left to right): Dieter Schindlauer, Barbara Liegl and Wolfgang Zimmer, leading team of ZARA at the press conference.

The Karl Kraus Room of the Café Griensteidl was packed with journalists on March 20, when ZARA, Austria’s non-profit organization documenting incidents of racial attacks and discrimination, presented the annual Racism Report for 2007.

And since 2000, the organization publishes the only comprehensive report annually, by no means systematically as this is not a government body, but compiling those incidences that were brought to their attention through the Counseling Services for Victims and Witnesses of Racism in Vienna and the Incidence Report Form on the the ZARA website (located at Kontakt – Rassissmus melden).

So, at 10.00 am, at the start of the press conference, Vienna was hit by a snow storm and strong winds. Mirroring the dramatic change of the weather outside, ZARA’s conclusion for 2007 were not least dramatic: Barbara Liegl, Managing Director, highlighted the significant increase of attacks against Afro-Austrian children.

At the same time, Wolfgang Zimmer, Head of the Counseling Service, pointed out, “one of the alarming results of the report is that there is often no moral courage in public spaces”, against racial assaults or violence. He added that in a number of those cases the step from verbal aggression to a physical attack was close.

“Only little is needed to let situation escalate”, said Liegl: hair pulling, threats with knives, thus were the minor consequences, broken jaw- and cheekbones were some of the serious injuries inflicted in racially motivated attacks in 2007.

While the press conference is ongoing, and cases studies are quoted to demonstrate the findings, I glance through the 80-pages report. ZARA has documented 831 racially motivated incidences in 2007, which indicates a dramatic drop in figures in comparison to 2006, where over 1,500 incidences were recorded. It also is the lowest number of incidences reported since 2003. Does this dramatic decrease mean less racism in Austria, I wonder.

Dieter Schindlauer, Chairman of ZARA, dismissed this conclusion, and explained the drop in actual figures with less incidences of racist graffiti reported in 2007. In 2006, he added, campaigns like Rassissmus streichen (Scrap Racism) sensitized the Austrian public to these kinds of racist acts, so 793 cases were reported to ZARA in that year. However, as the campaign was discontinued in 2007, the awareness has evidently dropped too and only 251 cases were documented.

Barbara Liegl, in her leading article for the 2007 report, concludes that the Racism Report 2007 does not allow for a quantitative conclusion on number of racists incidents or general trends of racism in Austria. “ZARA does not do active monitoring, but works with cases reported at the Counseling Service.” Therefore, Liegl added at the press conference, “a lot of racist incidences remain undetected for us,” as serious monitoring would entangle a whole network of governmental and non-governmental institutions actively acquiring data.

Due to the limited public funds for ZARA – only about one-third was public support from the City of Vienna (32%) and national ministries (3%) in 2007 – the majority of maintaining the service comes from individual donations and money generated by offering workshops and trainings. “We do not want to be book-keepers of racism”, Schindlauer concluded, but by highlighting individual cases ZARA hopes to make an impact in reducing racially motivated violence and assaults in Austria.

Later that day, I read the complete report and the 103 selected case studies: Grouped by the different spheres of life, the public space, like streets, public transport, account for 58% of the reported incidences, though not including the police (6%) and other public authorities (5%). Accommodation and shopping (12%) and work (11%), as well as racism against anti-racism work (8%) are the other categories. In comparison to 2006, the drop in racist graffiti reported – part of the public space statistics and with 76% an all-time high figure in 2006 – is also reflected here.

The final part of the report, however, caught my attention as it provides follow-ups from cases documented in previous reports. It also includes a chapter of racial discrimination in so-called ‘Nur Inländer’ (‘Only Native Austrians’) advertisements in the housing and job markets, published in small ads section of newspapers or on the internet. ZARA reported 112 such cases since 2005 to the Public Prosecution Office in Vienna, but as no evident results were yielded since, the organization filed a complaint at the Volksanwaltschaft (Austrian Ombudsman Board).

The Ombudsman Board, designed for investigation and review of alleged and presumed grievances by public authorities or the Austrian juridical system, issued a 25-pages Misstandsfeststellung (Grievance Statement) and recommendations for resolution in August 2007. ZARA referred to this thorough documentation as a “great investigation” as the Ombudsman Board proved that most of the 112 cases were not further investigated by the juridical system but rather closed, despite the fact that such racist advertisements violate not only national legislation but also legally binding non-discrimination directives issued by the European Union in 2000, the Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC and the Employment Equality Directive 2000/78/EC.

The cases are meticulously documented in this report, available for download here, and the following example shows the systematic procedure encountered by the Magistratisches Bezirksamt (District Administration in Vienna): ZARA reported numerous ‘Nur Inländer’ job adverts published in newspapers, among those one that mentions a mobile phone number as contact details.

The authorities, so the Ombudsman Board Report on page 7, asked for the name and contact details of the advertiser, which the medium refused to pass on for data protection reason. The case was consequently closed with the conclusion by the investigating authorities that the perpetrator was unknown and further pursuit seems futile as to “lack of tangible clues”.

The Ombudsman Board concluded overall, that the right of non-discrimination, in cases mentioned above, was not sufficiently executed due to “lack of effort by the authorities in the investigation of the advertisers.” (Page 23).

ZARA refers in this context to racism as Kavaliersdelikt (peccadillo), but expresses hopes that changes to legal procedures, issued by the City of Vienna as a consequence, will provide “measures that counteract such grievances” in the future.

ZARA, so its Chairman Dieter Schindlauer, will nevertheless approach the Ombudsman Board again later this year for a review of the situation. Despite the positive resolution in combating racism in this particular case and ZARA’s pioneering work, Schindlauer concluded that “we have the feeling of not being particular successful in recent years.”

This is an excerpt, the full article was published in April 2008 in The Vienna Review.

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2 responses

11 07 2009
Martin Hemmer

I found your blog by chance . but i have to say that it’s great blog very useful information and very interesting subjects just greetings and good luck
i’m not going i will be always checking for updates.by the way Graz is a very lovely city I enjoyed it so much.

11 07 2009
Hareedy Graz

Very useful information. Thanks for this. You got a great blog by the way Graz is a very lovely city I enjoyed it so much

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