Annual racism report flags 630 cases of discrimination

A Black Lives Matter protest event in Lausanne, June 2020. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

A record number of cases of racial discrimination were recorded in Switzerland in 2021, with schools and other education centres seeing a notable increase.

This content was published on April 24, 2022

The most-cited places where discrimination was flagged were the workplace and the education sector, according to the Federal Commission against Racism’s (FCR) annual reportExternal link, released on Sunday.

The 94 cases in the education sector were particularly singled out by the FCR, which called for better training to help teachers detect discrimination and to give them the tools to respond.

The most frequently-mentioned type of discrimination was xenophobia (218 cases), followed by racism against black people (207). Discrimination of an anti-Islamic (53) or anti-Arab (51) nature were also frequent.

A new category of anti-Asian racism was also introduced into the report for the first time, with 41 incidents flagged – most often insults, disparaging remarks, or degrading characterisations.

Anti-semitic incidents, at 31, were also slightly up on the previous year; the FCR noted that the tense period of the pandemic had boosted the spread of anti-Jewish ideas, including those trivialising or denying the Holocaust.

In February this year, Jewish organisations in Switzerland also warned of a significant increase in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as attacks on Swiss synagogues.

Authorities have not been blind to this: the government announced earlier this month a boost in funding to protect Jewish and Muslim minority groups in Switzerland – notably at their places of worship.

Snapshot, not compendium

As for the FCR report, its preamble notes that the cases recorded are not an “exhaustive and complete” overview of every racist act that happened in 2021. Rather, the report is an “overview of the cases flagged to counselling centres, the realities that [these cases] may reflect, and the way they were handled”.

The FCR also noted that while case numbers are increasing, this “does not necessarily mean there is a general increase in racial discrimination in Switzerland; but there is a growing will among victims to speak out and seek help”.

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