Minorities face ‘disturbing’ bias in virus policing in Europe, report says

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Policing across Europe during the coronavirus pandemic has exposed “a disturbing pattern of racial bias” linked to wider concerns raised by Black Lives Matter protesters, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Police enforcing coronavirus lockdowns in 12 European nations have “disproportionately targeted ethnic minority and marginalized groups with violence, discriminatory identity checks, forced quarantines and fines,” the group said in a report.

Amnesty examined policing in countries including Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium, which are Europe’s worst-affected nations by the pandemic.

They found the enforcement of lockdowns disproportionately impacted poorer areas with high concentrations of ethnic minorities.

In France, the number of fines for breaches of lockdown rules was three times higher in the poorest mainland area, Seine-Saint-Denis near Paris, than in the rest of the country.

Amnesty said “respect for lockdown measures” in Seine-Saint-Denis, where most residents are black or of North African origin, was similar to other areas.

In Nice, in southern France, districts with large ethnic minority populations were subjected to longer overnight curfews than the rest of the city.

British police registered a rise of almost one-third in the proportion of black people arrested in London as they increased use “stop and search” powers in March and April.

“Police violence and concerns about institutional racism are not new, but the Covid-19 pandemic and coercive enforcement of the resulting lockdowns have exposed just how prevalent they are,” said Marco Parolini, Amnesty’s western Europe researcher.

Amnesty also examined policing in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia and Romania.

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