Annual Report 2011
The state of the world's human rights
13 December 2011
Amnesty International research has revealed deliberate identity checks on foreigners in Spain
© Olmo Calvo / Fronteras Invisibles
The Spanish authorities must stop the practice of police selecting individuals for identity checks based on their ethnic or racial characteristics, Amnesty International said in a report published today.
Stop racism, not people: Racial profiling and immigration control in Spain, exposes the real extent of identity checks by police based on ethnic and racial characteristics and the consequences for ethnic minorities.
“People who do not ‘look Spanish’ can be stopped by police as often as four times a day, for identity checks, at any time of day or night, in any place or situation,” said Izza Leghtas, Amnesty International’s researcher on Spain.
“This practice is unlawful under Spanish and International law.”
“It affects both foreigners and Spanish nationals from ethnic minorities. It is not only discriminatory and illegal – it also fuels prejudice – as those who witness such stops presume the victims to be engaged in criminal activities.”
According to Spanish law the police can check the identity of people in public places when there is a security concern, for example when a crime has been committed in the area. However, Amnesty International research has revealed that deliberate identity checks on foreigners in the absence of any security concern are widespread.
Certain police stations in Madrid have been given weekly and monthly quotas for the number of irregular migrants they have to detain thus encouraging officers to target people belonging to ethnic minorities.
Racial profiling, when the police stop to question and arrest people because of their skin colour does not always amount to discrimination, but is discriminatory and illegal according to international law if it has no reasonable or objective justification.
“The Spanish authorities are using stop and search powers abusively as a way to control migration. Spain has the right to control migration, however that should not be at the expense of the rights of migrants and minorities to equality and protection from discrimination,” said Izza Leghtas.
“Spanish police must provide officers with training on how to conduct identity checks in compliance with the principle of equality and the prohibition of discrimination, and bring to an end the intimidation of those who observe or document the identity checks,” said Izza Leghats.
Furthermore, people who peacefully observe or document these identity checks, and inform people of their human rights in such situations, are sometimes intimidated and fined.
“It is time the authorities acknowledge and condemn the practice of racial profiling as discriminatory and unlawful and take measures to eliminate it,” Izza Leghtas said.
Amnesty International also recommends the Spanish government take action to ensure that there are no quotas for detaining irregular migrants and require that police officers record and document all stops.
Regular data on the number of police operations by area and motive should be published, distinguishing between those carried out for immigration control and criminal law enforcement,
“Addressing racial profiling by police is crucial in any serious attempt to combat racism and xenophobia,” said Izza Leghtas.
Police in Spain target people belonging to ethnic minorities for identity checks. People who are not "European-looking" can be stopped several times a day to have their papers checked on the pretext of "migration control". The Spanish authorities deny that racial profiling takes place. This report, however, documents the common practice of discriminatory identity checks and records people's direct experience of them. Faced with this evidence, the authorities cannot continue to deny this racism at the heart of a modern multicultural Spain, and must act to stop it.