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Ethnic bias in police stops of Africans, survey finds

Ethnic bias in police stops of Africans, survey finds

by Yannick HANSEN 3 min. 04.06.2021 From our online archive
Earlier claim about West-African drug dealers was figure of speech, police now says
Photo credit: Guy Jallay/Luxemburger Wort

Immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa are seven times more likely than others to be stopped by Luxembourg police on foot, a survey has said, a finding that comes after police failed to back up a claim about West-African refugees dealing drugs.

Luxembourg's police, interior security and justice ministries told the Luxembourg Times that they are not tracking data about how many drug dealers are immigrants, and the police had to retract at least one statement they recently made about their nationality when asked to provide evidence.

A total of 40% of all police stops of Sub-Saharan Africans in Luxembourg were ethnically motivated, the EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights found in a survey published on 25 May. Roughly one out of five of respondents in this group said they had been stopped because of their ethnic background, the survey said.

Widespread drug dealing around Luxembourg City's central train station – which police has said is at least partly in the hands of West-African gangs - has led to greater scrutiny of the police and caused a public row between Internal Security Minister Henri Kox and Mayor Lydie Polfer, who has criticised the force for not having a grip on the situation.

One of the problems was that "98% of all West African drug dealers in Luxembourg have claimed asylum in France," a senior police officer said at a press conference in March, making it hard to prosecute them. The number was based on searches the police carried out, the police said at the time.

But it now turns out that huge number was "merely a rhetorical tool" to emphasise that a majority of West-African drug dealers had filed for asylum, a spokesperson for the police told the Luxembourg Times on Thursday. There were no official statistics to support the claim, the police said.

Neither Kox's ministry nor the Justice Ministry gather data on the nationality or address of suspected or convicted criminals, the two departments said. The police do not keep that data either, they said.

The police in turn qualified that statement on Thursday, saying they do keep addresses and nationality of drug traffickers, though only after a formal judicial investigation begins. That data on who is dealing drugs also is not collected in a way that it could be analysed, they said.

The lack of data also casts doubt over a statement from Kox, who oversees the police, and who said in response to a parliamentary question in February there is no proof that foreign residents travel to Luxembourg to buy drugs. The two ministries said they do not collect data on drug buyers. The police said they did not have the data needed to confirm or deny Kox's assertion.

The Abrigado support centre for drug users in the capital city confirmed that three-quarters of its clients live in Luxembourg.  Yet users are not required to give an address because "between 28-35%" are homeless, facility director Raoul Schaaf said in an interview on Thursday. Social workers also do not check whether the information given is accurate, Schaaf said.

Polfer has employed a private security firm to patrol the streets of the Gare area near the train station since November, in some cases with dogs. They have the same powers any ordinary citizen has and cannot make arrests or carry out spot checks, city officials said in an email.

Yet, security guards have been found to have overstepped their mandate, Justice Minister Sam Tanson said in response to a parliamentary reply two weeks ago, mentioning the illegal expulsion of squatters.

Polfer would not allow the Luxembourg Times to speak to the private security agents about their view of events on the ground in general or to join them on a patrol. She cited contractual obligations that prevents the firm from giving their view on drug crime in the area they are monitoring.

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