Reports Carried out In 2005
Since taking over from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in mid-February 2005 we have been asked to undertake a wide variety of tasks. Besides bi-monthly RAXEN Bulletins designed to summarise key political and legislative developments and report on relevant research activity, there is a variety of data collection and research work. In terms of day-to-day research activity this tends to take the form of ‘Special Studies’ and ‘Rapid Response’ reports. ‘Special Studies’ are usually determined some months in advance of their launch and are stimulated by current EU policy debates, requests from European Parliament Ministers, or by EUMC management and staff. ‘Rapid Response’ projects, in contrast (and as their name suggests), are rather more urgent in nature, an obvious example in our period of tenure being the London bombings and attempted bombings in July (see below). The best way of illustrating, in a little more detail, what these different types of study entail is to say a few words about those already completed by us.
- Special Study. An issue high on the European policy agenda was the degree of support given to victims of ‘racial’ discrimination. Member States were known to differ widely in terms of the extent to which such support existed at the statutory and non-statutory levels. We were therefore asked to undertake a survey of these organisations, with a special emphasis on examples of ‘best practice’. The second part of our report focussed in detail on three NGOs and QUANGOS (Quasi Non-Governmental Organisations, such as the CRE). It explored the precise mechanisms (advice, counselling and legal support) in place to deal which those alleging racist discrimination.
- Rapid Response 1. Even prior to the London bombings in July, there was a general concern across Europe about the spread of Islamophobia. With the help of the Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR) we surveyed what was known in the UK about the incidence of Islamophobic attacks, broadly defined, and explored some of the methodological problems associated with assessing the nature and extent of the phenomenon.
- Rapid Response 2 and 3. In the wake of the July bombings, Franco Frattini, The Commissioner of the Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security, invited us (via EUMC) to conduct a major enquiry into media reporting of the events and the response of the police (especially the Metropolitan Police) and government (at central and local level). In addition, we were asked to assess the impact on Muslim communities and the response of Muslim organisations, national and local. These two studies led to the publication in November 2005 of a major European report published by EUMC, available at www.eumc.eu.int.
Finally, our UK Annual National Report for 2005 took the form of an extensive review of recent legislation, policy, practice and research in a number of key areas such as education, employment, housing, and racist violence and crimes. Outside the key substantive arenas (education, the labour market, and housing) we focussed very much on the major events of the year.
Much had happened, in particular, in the area of legislation. The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill 2005 introduced a controversial five-year plan aimed at controlling rates of entry to the UK of refugees and asylum seekers, and dealing with problems associated with illegal human trafficking. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill 2005 raised fears that basic human rights might be compromised and inter-communal tensions made worse (not better). Most controversial of all was the new Terrorism Bill. At the time of writing (17th November 2005) this is being debated in the House of Commons, but is meeting strong resistance not only from official Opposition Parties but also from backbenchers on the Government side of the House.xxx