“Racist behaviour more acceptible"

Unia, Belgium's anti-racism centre, received a record number of complaints about racism, homophobia and other forms of hatred last year. Over 400 people reported that they had been attacked or suffered verbal abuse, particularly as a result of the colour of their skin or their faith.
© K. Thomas - www.belgaimage.be

In 2010 Unia recorded 338 dossiers relating to incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence. Last year the figure stood at 404. Unia has also recorded a larger number of hate crimes: 84 dossiers in 2015 compared to 48 in 2010.

Unia says that the rise in the number of hate dossiers isn't linked to the refugee crisis or the Paris attacks.

Unia's Els Keytsman: "It's quite possible that people feel more concerned because of the increase in the number of refugees, but quite separately we've noticed a trend among Belgians: racist behaviour is considered normal or more acceptible."

Reports also deal with incidents that are more serious in nature.

"People are verbally abused in the street; women wearing a headscarf have this item ripped off. The seriousness of the crime has incerased. LGTBI people too are experiencing a harder time."

Unia recorded fewer complaints about discrimination, though: 1,596 last year compared to 1,670 the previous year.