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Italy: UN experts laud humanitarian response, urge stronger political will in combating racial discrimination

ROME / GENEVA (5 June 2015) – Differences exist between the legal framework to counter racism, and on-the-ground findings, the United Nations Working Group of experts on people of African descent said following a five-day official visit* to Italy.

“We commend in particular the Government’s policy to respond to the migrants crisis and in particular the increase in search and rescue operations, which has saved thousands of lives,” noted Mireille Fanon Mendes France, Chairperson of the Working Group.

At the same time, the Working Group urged the Italian Parliament to publicly condemn racist and xenophobic acts and for the government to ensure accountability and an effective remedy to counter any tendency, especially by politicians, to stigmatize and negatively stereotype people of African descent or use racist propaganda for political purposes.

“Too often in official discourse, people of African descent are not recognized as a specific group at risk of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia and related intolerance,” the Working Group said.

“We encourage the government of Italy to undertake impact-oriented activities in the framework of the International Decade for People of African descent to bridge the existing gaps between policies and practice, including through the implementation of relevant recommendations for recognition, justice and development of people of African descent,” the Working Group stated.

During its mission 1-5 June, the human rights experts visited Rome, Milan and Catania, and met representatives of the Government, civil society, UNHCR and the Italian Red Cross. It also visited a centre for Sudanese refugees in Rome, witnessed the reception of new arrivals at the Catania port and visited the Mineo reception centre for asylum seekers and refugees.

The Working group will present a report containing its findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2016.

(*) Check the Working Group’s full end-of-mission statement (English and Italian): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16047&LangID=E

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. The Working Group is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities: Ms. Mireille FANON-MENDES-FRANCE (France); Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Verene SHEPHERD (Jamaica); Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa); Mr. Ricardo A. SUNGA III (the Philippines) and Mr. Michal BALCERZAK (Poland). Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/WGEPADIndex.aspx

The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Italy: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/ITIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Christina Saunders (+41 79 444 5172 / csaunders@ohchr.org) or write to africandescent@ohchr.org

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en