LONDON — European governments have allowed widespread fears about migration and terrorism to erode their commitment to civil rights and liberal ideals, according to a new report by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
“Blatant Islamophobia and shameless demonizing of refugees have become the currency of an increasingly assertive politics of intolerance,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote in an essay in the group’s annual World Report, the 26th it has published.
The report, released in Istanbul, praised Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for demonstrating “remarkable leadership” in the face of one of the largest refugee crises in history — the exodus of four million Syrians from a civil war that began in 2011 — but it criticized European countries for erecting razor-wire fences, restricting movements across borders and trying to deflect the problem by pledging 3 billion euros, or about $3.25 billion, to Turkey to help stem the flow of refugees.
“To a large extent, Europe’s preoccupation with the new refugees as a possible terrorist threat is a dangerous distraction from its own homegrown violent extremism, given that the Paris attackers were predominantly Belgian or French citizens,” the report said, referring to the Nov. 13 assaults orchestrated by the Islamic State, which killed 130 people.
The report suggested that the French government had overreacted to the attacks by imposing a state of emergency that is still in effect.
The state of emergency allows security forces to conduct searches and to make arrests without warrants, and a lack of judicial oversight makes religious profiling, particularly of young Muslim men, more likely.
“Police stops based on such profiling have long plagued the very populations that should be cultivated to help counter violence,” the report said.
Human Rights Watch urged the European Union to expand refugee resettlement programs and to issue humanitarian visas in “places of first refuge,” like Lebanon (for Syrian refugees) and Pakistan (for Afghan refugees).
Nearly 3,800 people, a third of them children, drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe last year, and a more orderly process would make it easier to keep out terrorists, the group said.
It also urged the Persian Gulf states and Russia, along with countries that traditionally take in many migrants, like Australia, Canada and the United States, to accept more.
The United States has pledged to take in 85,000 refugees this year. Human Rights Watch condemned the dozens United States governors who unsuccessfully sought to bar Syrian refugees from entering their states, and contrasted their stance with that of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who has accelerated the plan to take in 25,000 Syrian migrantsand who has embraced the newcomers.
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