Discrimination worsens in Spain, far-right and fake news largely to blame

MADRID (Reuters) - Racial and ethnic discrimination in Spain has worsened in the past few years, especially in housing and education, the Equality Ministry said on Monday, fuelled by far-right politicians and fake news.

In its 2020 report, the ministry said almost one in three Black or ethnic minority respondents said they had experienced discrimination while house-hunting, starting with real estate and housing agencies and extending to landlords. This was double the levels reported in the previous 2013 study.

“The media noise about squatters mean people associate North African, Latino and Sub-Saharan people with over-crowding and squatting,” said study coordinator Anabel Suso. “People don’t want to rent to them, and real estate agencies reflect that.”

Discrimination in the educational sector also increased, by more than 50% from 2013, with one in five respondents saying they had endured insults, assault and racist jokes from fellow students, and been excluded from games and activities.

“Racially-motivated hate speech against determined groups is surging, gaining traction through social media,” the report said.

“The growing fake news trend...creates alternative outlets which publish xenophobic images and create a negative public perception towards migration flows and minority groups.”

People from sub-Saharan Africa and Spain’s Roma community, known locally as Gitano, experienced the highest levels of racism based on their physical aspect - 82% and 71% for the respective demographics.

Without naming any particular party, the study said that far-right parties incited hate crimes and spread racial stereotypes and xenophobic attitudes which have gained momentum in the political debate.

The ultranationalist, anti-immigrant Vox party became the third-largest force in parliament in late 2019.

The report said people were now better able to identify certain types of racism than in 2013, leading to a heightened awareness of everyday racism and partly explaining the rise in perceived discrimination. The Asian community - often better-educated than other minorities - perceives high levels of abuse.

“The younger, more educated individuals are more conscious of discrimination and their ability to call it out, even if only socially,” said study coordinator Suso. “Those who were born in Spain don’t resign themselves to racism as their parents did.”

A United Nations expert said last year that Spain’s discriminated-against communities suffer staggeringly high rates of disease, inequality, and poor access to education and housing.

Religion-related discrimination also increased considerably, the report said, with North African and Indo-Pakistani communities hardest-hit as a result of growing stigmatisation, Islamophobia and being likened to terrorists, the report said.

Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette, editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan