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Racism on rise in Britain, politics to blame: watchdog

London, 3.3.2010 1:29, (EXPATICA)

Racist attacks are on the rise in Britain where both politicians and the tabloid press routinely disparage Muslims, migrants and gypsies, a European rights watchdog charged Tuesday.

Racist offences in England and Wales jumped from 31,000 in 2003 to more than 38,OOO five years on, according to a report from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) based on British government figures.

More than 13,000 race-linked criminal cases were successfully prosecuted in 2007-2008, against 8,800 for the previous two years, said the commission, which is part of the pan-European Council of Europe rights body.

Asylum-seekers were vulnerable to hasty decisions to reject their claims, unnecessary detention -- and intense public hostility, the report said.

"Together with Muslims, migrants, Gypsies and Travellers, they are regularly presented in a negative light both in political discourse and in the media, especially the tabloid press," it added.

Gypsies face "some of the most severe levels of hostility and prejudice" in modern Britain, the report said.

But stop and search practices ordered under new anti-terror laws also "disproportionately" affected blacks, Muslims and other minority groups, ECRI said, urging Britain to boost the share of minorities in the force.

Anti-Semitic incidents were also on the rise, as was the number of anti-Semitic comments in leading British media, said the watchdog.

The watchdog acknowledged British authorities had toughened the legal framework for fighting racism and discrimination, and were working to promote racial equality in jobs and education, with school results already improving.

But overall, the ECRI report said "the tone of public debate continues to include some elements of racist and xenophobic discourse."

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