Why is Racism in Ireland Underreported?

 By Injae Kang

During the Covid-19 pandemic, racism came to the forefront as a serious social issue. Despite the fact that the number of racism reports is expected to decrease compared to the reports throughout the pandemic, underreporting is still a major problem with racism in Ireland.

There were 530 reports of racial incidents in Ireland in 2019, according to annual reports of racism in Ireland, researched by the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR). The annual report indicates that the numbers have continuously risen since the beginning of 2019.

Over 700 racial incidents were reported in total in 2020. 

There were 334 reports concerning hate speech, a figure which has doubled since 2019. 

Also, racial incidents accounted for 143 reports, 159 reports regarding criminal offences, and 99 reports concerning discrimination.. 

“We’ve seen that since the outbreak of Covid-19 started, the incidents of racist harassment specifically towards the Asian community have increased,” said Gabriela Mejia, Program and Communications Manager at Hollaback – a global organisation aimed at preventing racial harassment against minorities.

“Bias and fear were fuelling those incidents, and we all have a part in shutting down that hate,” Mejia added.

“Especially in 2020, we’ve seen hate against Asian individuals show up in the form of harassment, and violence, but also in the form of microaggressions and harassment in the form of jokes or memes.”

“404 racist incidents were received in total in 2021”

In comparison to 2019 and 2020, 2021 showed a reduction in the number of reports of racism. 404 racist incidents were documented  in 2021. Criminal offences accounted for 154 reports (including 40 assaults, 39 harassment, 13 serious threats). 113 reports regarding hate speech, 90 reports concerning discrimination, and 74 reports regarding all other incidents.

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Sourced by the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR).

The annual report shows that Asian groups (including Chinese, South Asian and others) are most likely to be targeted for racially motivated crimes, with 64% of racist crimes being reported in 2021. In addition, the largest group of discrimination reports came from people of Black African, Black-Irish or Black-Other backgrounds at 24%.

There were also likely many unreported racist incidents. 

Fiona Hurley, policy and communications manager at the Nasc Migrant and Refugee Right Centre said that  “the numbers are still under-reported, and the rate is likely to be much higher than recorded.”

“Our [NASC] own experience of working with people who have experienced a racist incident is that they often think that reporting it to the Gardai will be futile,” she said.

The Irish Council for International Students released a report last year based on a survey of 760 international students from 75 countries. A survey of the international students revealed that approximately 40% of respondents had experienced racism either as a witness or as a victim in Ireland. 

However, only 5 percent of respondents reported the incident. Similar findings were found in a survey carried out by iReport.ie. Only 25 percent of those reporting crimes to iReport.ie in 2021 reported the incidents to An Garda Síochána or to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). 

Although An Gardaí Síochána encourages reporting of crimes among minority groups, launching its online hate crime reporting facility, the figure is down from 43 percent in 2020.

According to a survey conducted by iReport.ie in 2020, the organisation asked those who experienced racism but did not report it to Gardaí: “If you didn’t report racism incidents to police, why was this?”. 

The most common reason for not reporting to Gardaí was “I did not think the Gardaí would do anything”. 

When asked why they had not reported, half of those surveyed “did not expect Gardaí to act if they reported.”

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