defending rights and civil liberties




Policy Webinar on Ethnic profiling

We invite you to register for our webinar on the date and time that suits you best. Once you have registered, you will receive an email confirming your registration.

Ethnic profiling is widespread across the European Union. According to findings of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency report “Being Black in the EU”, published in 2018, 24% of respondents were stopped by the police in the five years before the survey; among those, 41% felt the stop constituted racial profiling.  

Profiling raises a number of fundamental rights concerns. FRA published “Preventing unlawful profiling today and in the future: a guide”, to give a response to these concerns and provide mid-level officers and police trainers with tools for avoiding discriminatory profiling based on ethnicity. In 2018, the guide was updated taking account of the technological developments that have changed the nature of profiling considerably, now based on algorithmic or computer-based results. 

In 2018, over 30 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe signed a motion for a resolution“Ethnic profiling in Europe: a matter of high concern”. The motion was referred to the PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination which has since been working on a report, taking “stock of the failure to bring ethnic profiling to an end, with a view of gathering relevant data, establishing adequate legal standards against abuse, introducing recording and independent oversight mechanisms, and, finally, putting an end to this regrettable practice.” provisional version of the resolution and the report were published in November 2020. 

In 2019, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe published a human rights comment “Ethnic profiling: a persisting practice in Europe”, highlighting that although this phenomenon is not new, it is still widespread across the Council of Europe area, despite a growing awareness of the need to confront it supported by an evolving body of case-law. The Commissioner also raised concern over machine-learning algorithms used by the police and in the criminal justice system and their potentially discriminatory impact.

Finally, in 2019, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) initiated the drafting process ofGeneral Comment nº 36 on preventing and combatting racial profiling. An advanced version has been released on November 2020.

Spain is like most other European countries in its patterns of ethnic profiling, lack of data and persistent police stereotypes. In 2018, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) was quite blunt in its report, stating that “racial profiling by law enforcement is an ongoing problem.” The UN’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent in its mission report stated that the issue of racial profiling against people of African descent is an “endemic” problem, whereby those people are assumed to be undocumented migrants and therefore stopped by the police “simply because of the color of their skin.”

These manifestations of racism and racial discrimination are the results of the deeply rooted institutional racism that prevails in Spain. 

In December 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared admissible the case Zeshan Muhammad v. Spain in which a Pakistani national with long-term Spanish residence permit who alleges that the police singled him out in the street and requested his identification based solely on his skin color.  Zeshan’s experience was included in the report “Under Suspicion” (2018-19) published by RIS and OSJI, focusing on the human impact of ethnic profiling in Spain through the stories and experiences of people for whom being stopped and searched by police because of the way they look is part of their everyday life. Those interviewed referred to these daily experiences as traumatic, humiliating, shocking; as experiences that generate feelings of defencelessness, insecurity, fear, impunity and affect the day-to- day lives of people, who decide to avoid going to certain parts of the city, leave their own neighbourhood or even leave the house, out of fear. 

In 2020, Spain underwent the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which resolved that Spain’s response to systemic racism is insufficient

RIS and the Implementation Team of the IDPAD in Spain published “The COVID-19 Health crisis: racism and xenophobia during the state of alarm in Spain” in order to make visible the impact of confinement measures on the racial-ethnic minorities who are vulnerable to structural and institutional racism in Spain. The report was published in the context of global protests against racism and police brutality as a consequence of the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis. The report found that more than 70% of the respondents (thirty-three of a total of forty-seven) who reported having been stopped (profiled) were subjected to police brutality afterwards. 

However, Spain also stands out for the extent of experimentation with good practices by local, municipal police services, including supporting the introduction of stop forms to document possible bias in local police forces:  between 2007-2008, the local police of Fuenlabrada, the local police of Gerona and the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan, regional police force) department in Gerona; they developed tools to monitor the use of identity checks and stop and search powers (mainly, through the use of stopforms) and determine whether they disproportionately affected minority communities and assessed their effectiveness in detecting and investigating crime or other administrative offences. From 2013 onwards, local polices of Castellón and Pedrezuela implemented these tools, followed by local polices of A Coruña and Puertollano. In 2018-2019, RIS-OSJI provided technical assistance to a pilot project aimed at documenting stop and search practices and reducing ethnic profiling in the Madrid municipal police.  Unfortunately, in July 2019 the municipal government of Madrid, a coalition between the Popular Party and Ciudadanos with the support of the extreme right party Vox, abolishedthe Protocol for Effective Police Identifications. 

In 2019, within the framework of CERD consultations with stakeholders and civil society regarding the drafting of General Comment on ethnic profiling, the Spanish State participated by making a submission “Summary of good practices in Spain to prevent and combat racial profiling”. In its submission, the State mentions repetitively the “Program for Effective Police Identification PIPE” as a good practice. However, the Government has not implemented nationally this Program in National Police or Civil Guard forces. 

Webinar objectives: The Spanish government is required to take positive measures and the police must introduce protections against and remedies for police profiling.

  • Promote European and international human rights standard on this issue: focusing on what human rights bodies have said abought this type of practice and their negative effects
  • Show Spanish reality: present the conclusions of the most recent reports related to ethnic profiling in Spain
  • Support social mobilization promote activist mobilization providing them with arguments and practical tools
  • Promote and support an agenda for change: focus on the positive steps that have been taken and what solutions are available. This issue has to be on the political agenda and urge authorities to take measures to put an end to this practice.