Rights Group Urges Germany to Crack Down on Extremists

A human rights and pro-democracy organization is urging Germany to combat what it called the “serious problem” of a rising tide of anti-Semitic and racist violence there.

In a report issued Monday by its Anti-Racism Committee, the Council of Europe called on Germany to toughen existing laws against hate crimes.

It also rejected the frequent suggestion that the growth of such crimes is restricted to eastern Germany.

The German government has not yet commented on the report.

According to statistics provided by the German government through last December, there were some 15,591 extremist crimes last year — a 58.9 percent increase over the previous year.

Of those, there were 998 violent crimes, an increase of 33.8 percent over 1999. Among the violent crimes, 64 percent were aimed at foreigners.

The report noted that Germany’s lack of an immigration law makes it possible for asylum seekers to be deported back to their home countries, where their lives might be in danger. German officials are currently developing proposals for a new immigration law.

The report also found fault with German media for spreading negative stereotypes about foreigners and minority groups.

The council suggested that latent anti-Semitism and racism combined with apathy could create deadly results.

While calling the rise in racism and anti-Semitic violence “one of the most pressing and dangerous expressions of racism and intolerance in Germany,” the council also commended the German government for changing its citizenship laws in January 2000.

As a result of that change, it is now easier for immigrants to become German citizens.

The Council of Europe, which is based in Strasbourg, France, has 43 member states.

Members of the Anti-Racism Committee visited Germany last October, when they met with government representatives and members of non-governmental organizations. The new report grew out of this visit.

Past reports have dealt with such issues as xenophobia in Austrian politics and the narrowing of British immigration laws.

While the Council’s latest study says both eastern and western Germany have witnessed an increase in racist and anti-Semitic crimes, a recent E.U. study suggested that hatred of immigrants is an especially serious problem among youth in eastern Germany, where economic problems, particularly unemployment, have been more marked than in the western portion of the nation.

The E.U. study also spoke of an increasing tendency throughout Europe to blame social and economic problems on minority groups.

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