Tuesday 05 July 2022

Surge in complaints of discrimination during coronavirus pandemic

Protesters in masks at a demonstration in Enschede, June 2020. Photo: Buursestraat38/ Depositphotos

The number of complaints of discrimination made to councils and the police increased sharply in 2021, partly as a result of people disputing the coronavirus restrictions.

A study by rights agency Art.1 found that reports to councils rose by 26%, while police handled 7% more complaints than in 2020.

Around three in 10 complaints handled by councils concerned ‘non-statutory’ forms of discrimination, including people contesting the validity of coronavirus entry passes or the requirement to wear face masks.

Police dealt predominantly with verbal abuse based on people’s ethnic origin or sexuality, which made up 62% of the 6,580 complaints they received.

The human rights arbitration body CRM and the national ombudsman also reported an increase in their caseload, with the CRM receiving 5,286 reports and enquiries about equality, nearly double the number in 2020. The number of requests for adjudication was up by 16%.

Only the online internet discrimination hotline MiND reported a decline in cases, with just 339 reports in 2021, half as many as the year before.

Online anti-Semitism

In a separate study, the Jewish community organisation CIDI said online anti-Semitism was a ‘huge structural problem’ in the Netherlands after commissioning research from Utrecht Data School.

A study found over 200,000 anti-Semitic messages in Dutch on websites and discussion communities such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Telegram.

Researchers analysed a total of 1,8 million messages using algorithms to detect racist content. They found 25% of comments about Jews on YouTube were anti-Semitic in nature, but this proportion rose to 36% on Telegram.

CIDI director Hanna Luden said the messages were ‘the tip of the iceberg’ because the study was only able to look at verbal comments, not visual material such as videos and cartoons.

‘We have seen that online anti-Semitism can have physical consequences for people in the real world,’ she said. ‘More research is needs and more methods need to be developed to combat anti-Semitism effectively.’

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