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Human Rights Watch report notes little progress in EU

European Union leaders in 2013 acknowledged problems of rising intolerance and persistent human rights violations across the EU, but failed to take concerted action, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday in its World Report 2014, mentioning Greece in particular for its treatment of Syrian refugees.

The watchdog documented EU-level developments in migration and asylum, discrimination and intolerance, and counter-terrorism, saying that the European Commission and member states showed "little appetite for improving existing tools to address everyday abuses, preferring to focus on a new mechanism to respond to exceptional rule-of-law crises."

Respect for human rights is measured in deeds, not words, Judith Sunderland, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying. Ordinary people, from the homeless in Hungary, to black and Arab teenagers constantly stopped by the police in France, to Syrian asylum seekers in Greece, are paying the price for the lack of robust rights enforcement.

In the 667-page report, HRW said that "events in 2013 confirmed that even when EU institutions do tackle rights concerns, problems often persist even after they are deemed solved.

"Racism and homophobia remained serious problems in the EU, prompting calls from the European Parliament and the Council of Europe for more efforts to counter extreme forms of intolerance. Roma, migrants, and asylum seekers are particularly marginalized, while Europes Muslims face discrimination in many spheres, including in the exercise of religious freedom," the report noted.

On the issue of asylum seekers fleeing strife in the Middle East, the report noted that "asylum seekers face protection gaps in numerous EU countries. This is especially true also for people fleeing the conflict in Syria, with the failure of EU countries to adopt a common approach to the Syria refugee crisis."

ekathimerini.com , Tuesday Jan 21, 2014 (15:52)  
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