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Swiss record almost 600 cases of racial discrimination in 2020

Anti-racism demo
Several thousand demonstrators take part in an anti-racism demonstration in Geneva in July 2020 Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

There were 572 recorded cases of racial discrimination in Switzerland in 2020, according to figures released on Sunday. The coronavirus pandemic has shifted incidents closer to home.

The highest number of cases – 95 – were at the workplace, said the Federal Commission against Racism (FCR) in its report, which is based on incidents registered by the country’s 21 racism counselling centres. Examples were when somebody was humiliated, subject to disrespectful remarks or unequal treatment at the hands of management.

There were 72 incidents in neighbourhoods. “The restrictions on public life due to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic have shifted the incidents of discrimination to the private sphere, especially to neigbourhoods,” said a FCR statementExternal link. Here it gave the example of a refugee family, who had just moved into a flat, being harassed by a neighbour.

The report has updated its methodology for collating cases, meaning that it was not possible to compare the 2020 results to those of the previous year. But nevertheless, the report noted that “the lockdown had played a not to be underestimated role here” in the number of local incidents.

In her introductionExternal link, racism commission president Martine Brunschwig Graf said that the coronavirus crisis had once again show how uncertainty and tension within society could lead to a deterioration in behaviour towards other people. “The temptation to find a scapegoat in difficult times is high,” she wrote.

Other places where a relatively high number of racist incidents had taken place last year were public areas, the local authorities, education and training institutions, the police and on the internet, the report noted.

Overall, xenophobia was found to be the most frequent motive (304 cases), followed by discrimination against black people (206 cases) and Muslims (55 cases). In around a quarter of incidents, there were multiple reasons for discrimination, so gender, legal and social status factors in addition to racism, the report said.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR