It is only through the strength of our diversity that we will overcome the health crisis we are facing as well as the economic and social challenges likely to follow, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said today in response to the spate of racist slogans and attacks that have followed the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic and tragic loss of life it has led to remind us of our shared humanity and the need to find a shared response,” said ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. “That makes the hatred we are seeing in some places all the more unacceptable. We have seen in so many places how health workers and carers from a multitude of backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions have saved lives and in doing so have sometimes lost their own. This is a time to celebrate the strength of our diverse societies, not to engage in a racist blame game.”
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports have proliferated of hate-motivated attacks across the OSCE region against people of Asian backgrounds, and increasingly on people from other minority communities. Many are in low-paid jobs that can’t be carried out from home, potentially exposing them to racist abuse and making it more difficult to keep themselves safe from infection. Refugees and migrants, often the most vulnerable members of our societies, have also found themselves singled out for abuse and hatred.
Victims of hate crime often belong to groups facing discrimination and marginalization on a daily basis. In addition to inflicting lasting trauma on the victims, their families and communities, hate crimes damage social cohesion by stoking fear and division. In times of crisis, the threat posed by these crimes only intensifies, heightening the sense of fear and uncertainty. This makes it even more important that all 57 countries of the OSCE uphold their commitments to record and investigate hate crimes swiftly, support victims as they report their experiences, and ensure the availability of all necessary psychological, social and legal support for victims.
ODIHR has been working for many years to counter hate crime and build more tolerant societies. Its latest publication, Hate Crime Victims in the Criminal Justice System: A Practical Guide was written to help governments put victims at the centre of their work to combat hate crime and assist those working directly with victims. A further guide, Understanding anti-Muslim Hate Crimes and Addressing the Security Needs of Muslim Communities, is due to be published later this spring.