Prevention of Discrimination and Xenophobia

MIGRATIONS - Oct 11, 2012

CIDOB, the GRISC-UAB, the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona and the Foundation ACSAR organized on October 2 the seminar "The Prevention of Discrimination and Xenophobia" in order to discuss experiences of preventing discrimination and xenophobia.

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CIDOB, the GRISC-UAB, the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona and the Foundation ACSAR organized on October 2 the seminar "The Prevention of Discrimination and Xenophobia" in order to discuss experiences of preventing discrimination and xenophobia.

After an institutional opening by Carles A. Gasòliba, President of CIDOB, Mark Mineo, Consul for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Barcelona, Ramon J. Moles, Director of GRISC-UAB and Carles Campuzano, President of ACSAR, the event moved on to different presentations.

The first session focused on examining the prevention of discrimination at the local level. To begin with, Mona Noriega (Chairman, Department of Human Relations of the City of Chicago), shared the experience of herself and the city of Chicago in the prevention and management of xenophobia and discrimination. Ms. Noriega explained the importance of her department in supporting victims of hate crimes, in mediating between the different communities, as well as in support of citizens who have encountered discrimination. Furthermore, she gave special attention to the importance of the Office of New Americans which supports immigrants in economic matters and promotes their role in the economy. According to Ms. Noriega these local experiences can serve as an example for the state levels.

Miguel A. Aguilar, Coordinator for Public Prosecution on Hate Crimes and Discrimination in Barcelona, was the second speaker. In his speech, the prosecutor familiarized the audience with the case of Barcelona. As a central point he highlighted the two main problems of the fight against racism and xenophobia encountered in the local context. On the one hand, the prosecution is hindered due to the limited legal framework and, secondly, due to the continuing lack of data. The latter is strongly criticized by European bodies involved in combating xenophobia and discrimination. Moreover, Miguel A. Aguilar mentioned some of the actions which are implemented by the prosecution. Despite its limitation in size, the bureau works on raising public awareness, training public employees and in supporting victims of discrimination. Mr. Aguilar closed his presentation by stating that "the criminal law has to be complemented by the approach of mediation" which in Barcelona is successfully done by the Office for Non-discrimination (Oficina per la no discriminació).

The second part of the discussion focused on how to combat xenophobia and discrimination. In his speech, Carlos Muñoz-Acevedo, political advisor to the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security in the United States, gave an overview of the history and the work of his department. In addition, he pointed out the importance of institutions in order to ensure that the fight against racism and xenophobia becomes reality. In this sense, Carlos Muñoz-Acevedo highlighted the fact that in the U.S. a lot of states have an office dedicated to civil rights which works together with the Justice Department.

With the question "Are there problems of racism in Spain?" Lorenzo Cachón (Professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid) opened his presentation. In terms of concrete proposals to combat discrimination and racism Mr. Cachón pleaded, first, for the need to develop a legislative framework to accompany a strong institutional framework, and second, for advocacy leading to social antidiscriminatory awareness, third, for the formation of legal actors directly involved in the fight against hatred and discrimination; fourth, for involving teachers in issues such as human rights and equal treatment; and finally, for the need to create, as a first step to confront the phenomenon, a system of documentation and collection of data on cases o discrimination in Spain.

The event was closed with the words of Xavier Bosch, Director General for Immigration of the Generalitat de Catalunya, and Jordi Vaquer i Fanés, Director of CIDOB. Both drew attention to the need for Catalonia to continue its historical path as a country of immigration and integration. In this context, they emphasized the fight against racism and xenophobia as one of the most important issues in societies as diverse as the Catalan one.

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