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By Newsdesk

Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

 A new study has exposed widespread racial profiling in Spain. The research by Amnesty International says the Spanish authorities regularly select non-white individuals for identity checks based on their ethnic or racial characteristics.

The report Stop racism, not people: Racial profiling and immigration control in Spain, says ethnic minorities are often stopped by police, sometimes several times a day, sometimes for extended identity checks, and sometimes detained while their immigration status is checked. Amnesty International notes that police in Madrid were given targets with specific numbers of migrants they were to stop and ordered to find undocumented migrants to deport.

Amnesty International says this practice is unlawful under international human rights law and affects foreigners and Spanish nationals from ethnic minority background. The organisation believes that stop-and-search is not only discriminatory and illegal, but it also fuels racism as those who witness such stops presume the victims to be engaged in criminal activities.

Izza Leghtas, of Amnesty International said:

“The Spanish authorities are using stop and search powers abusively as a way to control migration. Spain has the right to control migration, however, that should not be at the expense of the rights of migrants and minorities to equality and protection from discrimination,”

“Spanish police must provide officers with training on how to conduct identity checks in compliance with the principle of equality and the prohibition of discrimination, and bring to an end the intimidation of those who observe or document the identity checks.

“It is time the authorities acknowledge and condemn the practice of racial profiling as discriminatory and unlawful and take measures to eliminate it.”

Rachel Neild a senior advisor with the civil rights organisation Open Society Justice Initiative, pointed out that Europe’s majority populations rarely experience police stops, and tend to view these incidents as minor. Writing on Soros.org, she says what is striking and unusual in Spain is that the Constitutional Court has ruled that racial profiling in immigration stops is lawful. 

According to Spanish law the police can check the identity of people in public places when there is a security concern, for example when a crime has been committed in the area. The Spanish Government says Spain is not a racist country.

However, Amnesty International’s research revealed that deliberate identity checks on foreigners, in the absence of any security concern, are common. 

Furthermore, people who peacefully observe or document these identity checks, and inform people of their human rights in such situations, are sometimes intimidated and fined. 

Amnesty International also recommends the Spanish government take action to ensure that there are no quotas for detaining irregular migrants and require that police officers record and document all stops. 

Regular data on the number of police operations by area and motive should be published, distinguishing between those carried out for immigration control and those carried out for criminal law enforcement.

A Senegalese immigrant who was interviewed for the study said: “Life for migrants here is very hard. It is painful, even if you have your documents in order. The worst is when you’re black. Even now when I see police, they ask me for my documents. They can take you out of the train or the metro to check your documents. They say they are looking for criminals. But being black isn’t being a criminal.” 

Babu, an Indian national said: “I think I have been in all the police stations in the city. I have been to the same police station three or four times. All the policemen know me. I want people to know that we, migrants, we are not numbers. We have the same heart, two hands, the same as people who are working all over the world”.

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