Black people living in Switzerland say they are the victims of daily discrimination and racism, and are rejected by the population at large.
They have accused the Swiss authorities of not doing enough to ensure greater awareness and acceptance of different cultures.
A study by the Federal Commission against Racism, presented in Bern on Wednesday, found that black people felt they were viewed negatively and treated with mistrust.
“The findings of this study clearly show that skin colour plays a major role in daily life [in Switzerland],” said Georg Kreis, president of the Federal Commission against Racism.
“It is a reality that we, the majority white population, are not very aware of.”
The authors wrote that racism and discrimination were a daily experience for blacks living in Switzerland.
Some of this was latent, such as people being deliberately ignored. But it also took the form of verbal and physical attacks – one person in two said they had been insulted because of their skin colour.
The offenders were both members of the public and people in authority. The authors noted that police aggression, both verbal and physical, accounted for the bulk of racist attacks reported by blacks.
A study last week by the Swiss Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism revealed an increase in cases of racial discrimination and racist attacks in 2004.
The authors of the study said blacks – who made up 0.6 per cent of the population in 2002 – were banded together due to their skin colour, regardless of their nationality.
They said many of the stereotypes associated with black people dated back to slavery and the colonial era.
To change this mentality, they recommended that both populations – black and white – learned more about each other.
The “qualitative” study was based on interviews with 27 black people, some who have been living in Switzerland for dozens of years.
While those questioned said they felt integrated within their immediate circle and had Swiss friends, they did not feel accepted by the general public.
Several pointed out that the seat next to them on trains and buses was often empty, and they all felt tagged by the stereotype linking blacks to crime.
They said it was up to the authorities to build a society that recognised multiculturalism, and rejected racism and discrimination.
This could be achieved through awareness campaigns, especially in schools, they added.
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The study was carried out between February and October 2003.
27 people of different age, sex, profession and social background were questioned.
20 of them are Swiss.
Black people make up 0.6% of the Swiss population.