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Experts release findings on racism and discrimination in Belgium
Racism is still very prevalent in Belgian society, according to a new report from the UN's Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, published this week.
The group has released its findings after a week-long visit to Belgium to study human rights. The group was here to gather information on different forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and their effects on people of African descent in Belgium.
“People of African descent face discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, including diversion from mainstream education into vocational schooling, ‘downgrading’ in employment opportunities and discrimination in the housing market,”said Michal Balcerzak, chair of the Working Group.
One particular area where the group found problems was the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Although the museum has undergone a reorganisation in order to include critical analysis of colonialism, the group says it has not done enough. They would like to see the removal of all colonial propaganda and for the museum to better educate visitors on Belgium’s colonial past.
The group also expressed concern about the monument dedicated to King Leopold II and Force Publique officers. They feel it is necessary for Belgium to acknowledge King Leopold II’s role in colonisation and the negative effects that Belgium’s actions had that many are still seeing today.
Interestingly, the bust of Leopold II which the group expressed distaste for disappeared after their statements were released on Monday. It was replaced by a bust of Nelson Mandela.
The Working Group suggested several ways for Belgium to work against present-day racism and inequality.
One change they would like to see is more data being collected to document racism and inequality. The group said this is an important step in ensuring that people of African descent are recognized in society.
Another thing the group would like to see is updated textbooks and educational materials so that the history of colonization is accurately represented.
The Working Group’s final findings will be presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2019.