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Why is Portugal seeing a rise in racism?

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Portugal - along with a spate of other European nations - has been subjected to racially motivated attacks against its citizens. This escalation in violence is being attributed to the rise of far-right politicians and law enforcement personnel, which legitimize violence against minorities, writes Yanis Radulović.

Last October, the Chega - or ‘Enough’ - party won a seat in parliament with its leader, Andre Ventura. Ventura has been connected to far-right extremist groups and appointed several people who had ties to neo-Nazi groups to various leadership positions. Unsurprisingly, during his campaign, he referred to a female opposition leader as a ‘Gypsy candidate’ and also stumped on a call to ‘drastically reduce’ Muslim communities throughout Europe.

Such comments from a party leader in the current government surely act as a catalyst for an increase of intolerance and racism. In fact, since 2018, there has been a 26% increase in claims of racism and racist attacks. Since Ventura’s election to parliament, far-right activists and racists have felt emboldened to carry out further attacks.

The increasing number of attacks has authorities concerned, but not all of them.

During a national football match, player Moussa Marega, who is also of African descent, was verbally assaulted by some fans. Disparaging, racist, and threatening names and warnings were shouted at him. He left the game due to the assault.

In addition, two women of Brazilian descent were brutally attacked by police during street festivities.

But, perhaps most shockingly, was the murder of Bruno Candre. Candre, an actor, was shot four times and killed this past July in what has been described by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) as “an explicitly racially motivated crime”.

With numerous cases, both verbal and physical, on the rise, authorities do not seem to be bothered by the devastating effects this is having on Portugal’s minorities.

There are several factors that have led to this increase in racist attacks and racist sentiment in the country, not the least of which involves the police completely disregarding these crimes. In some cases -such as with the two Brazilian women-the police were the perpetrators.

Unfortunately, the police have clearly been derelict in their duties and what is even more troubling is that there is a growing faction of far-right affiliates making inroads in the national police. A police force with an inherent bias against minorities makes for one that is corrupted, leaving many vulnerable to racially motivated attacks.

If far-right extremists commit these crimes and get away with them -with little to no repercussions- the more emboldened they will feel to continue carrying out future attacks and assaults.

Even human rights defenders feel unsafe in the country. They do not believe there is any protection for them and those who defend minorities from within the police force. The national police must put their political affiliations aside and apprehend those who commit racist crimes.

As a democratic country, there is no place for violence against minority groups. It is Portugal’s duty to make sure all citizens feel safe and included in society.

This raises the question of how Portugal can patch up the wound. First and foremost, the police must fulfill their primary responsibility to protect the people of Portugal. Regardless of what their race, nationality, or political beliefs may be, they have a duty to serve all people of Portugal.

The national police must investigate reported crimes with the full capabilities of their training and resources.

As American Civil Rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This truthful statement is being played out over and over around the world, and it is taking root in Portugal. If the police and party leaders do not stand against injustice anywhere within its borders, it is allowing all justice to be threatened.

It is time for all those in positions of power, including Ventura and the national police affiliates, to denounce racism and step up their investigations. The Portuguese justice system must bring the hammer down on these crimes and ensure that those who perpetrate them are fully arrested and prosecuted.

If this does not happen, then Portugal’s minorities will forever feel persecuted.

All opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author, and do not represent any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.  

Afghanistan

2020 Afghanistan Conference: Sustainable peace, anti-corruption and aid effectiveness on the agenda

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The 2020 Afghanistan Conference kicks begins today (23 November) with the EU co-organizing and participating in number of events taking place ahead of tomorrow's (24 November) plenary session. Crisis Management Commissioner  Janez Lenarčič will co-chair, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan Mohammad Haneef Atmar an event on sustainable peace (livestream available), with a focus on promoting human rights and empowering women, and also on refugees and returnees.

International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen will deliver a speech at an event on anti-corruption and good governance, and in doing so will emphasize the EU's expectation that the Afghan government delivers on its reform agenda. EU officials will also participate in a third side event taking place ahead of the conference, on aid effectiveness.

Tomorrow, EU High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell will deliver a speech at the opening session of the conference, when he will outline the EU's position on the ongoing intra-Afghan peace negotiations, as well as the conditions for the EU's support, which were presented in a recent paper co-authored with key international donors.

Later, Commissioner Urpilainen will deliver the EU's financial assistance pledge at the conference. Both interventions will be available on EbS. More information on EU-Afghanistan relations is available in a dedicated factsheet and on the website of the EU Delegation in Kabul.

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EU

Stop violence against women: Statement by the European Commission and the High Representative

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Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, the European Commission and High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell (pictured) issued the following statement: “Violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights, and has no place in the European Union, or anywhere else in the world. The scale of the problem remains alarming: one in three women in the European Union have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Violence against women exists in every country, culture and community.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has shown once more that for some women not even their home is a safe place. Change is possible, but it requires action, commitment and determination. The EU is committed to continue to work tirelessly with its partners to investigate and punish acts of violence, ensure support for victims, and at the same time to address the root causes and reinforce the legal framework.

"Through our Spotlight Initiative we are already fighting violence against women and girls, in 26 countries across the globe. This week we will present a new Action Plan on gender equality and women and girl's empowerment in our external actions. We also call on member states to ratify the Istanbul Convention - the first legally binding instrument at the international level to combat violence against women and domestic violence. Our goal is very clear: to end all forms of violence against women and girls. We owe it to all the victims.”

The full statement and the factsheet are available online.

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coronavirus

Coronavirus: Commission to provide 200 disinfection robots to European hospitals

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As part of its continued efforts to tackle the spread of coronavirus and provide member states with necessary equipment, the Commission launched the purchase of 200 disinfection robots that will be delivered to hospitals across Europe. Overall, a dedicated budget of up to €12 million is available from the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI). Hospitals from most Member States expressed a need and interest in receiving these robots, which can disinfect standard patient rooms, using ultraviolet light, in as quickly as 15 minutes, and thus help prevent and reduce the spread of the virus. The process is controlled by an operator, who will be located outside of the space to be disinfected, in order to avoid any exposure to the UV light.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said: “Developing technologies can set up forces of change and we see a good example of this in the disinfection robots. I welcome this action to help our hospitals in Europe reduce the risk of infection – an important step in containing the spread of coronavirus.” Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, added: “Europe has remained resilient and solidary during the current crisis. From repatriating EU citizens stranded abroad to increasing the production of masks and ensuring that medical equipment reaches those who need it within the single market, we are acting to protect our citizens. Now we are deploying disinfection robots in hospitals so that our citizens can benefit from this potentially life-saving technology.”

The robots are expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

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