THE economic downturn is fuelling racism against minority groups and the Roma community in particular, according to a report by the Council of Europe.
The findings come at the end of a week where two Roma families had children taken from them due to doubts over their parentage, only for the children to be returned when these fears proved unfounded.
The embarrassing episode has led to accusations in the Dail that racial profiling occurred.
According to the report, published today, acute financial instability is pushing people “to seek easy targets of blame and makes them more open to extremist ideologies.”
It found grievances increasingly aired against immigrants and Roma in particular, while Muslims were “frequently projected as a threat to national identity”. The increased use of the internet to spread racism was also noted as a worrying trend.
The findings – contained in the annual report of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance – were made after monitoring visits to nine countries, including Ireland, in the past year.
The council said its inspectors found “intolerance of Roma and discrimination in all fields of life.”
In particular, it said Roma children often face obstacles accessing education.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the report needed to be immediately considered by the Government.
“The impact of the economic crisis and the targeting of minorities, such as Roma people in particular, is the main warning from the report. In particular there is a warning of hate speech and the perception that minorities are easy targets,” said Immigrant Council chief executive Denise Charlton.
She said cyber racism now accounts for 16pc of complaints received by the council.
“Extremists often under false names seem free to spread their message of hatred with a click of a mouse,” said Ms Charlton.
She said Ireland had a key role in combating this trend with some of the largest social media and internet firms headquartered here.
The Council of Europe findings come just days after research by a UCD academic revealed over half of foreigners having experienced some form of discrimination since moving here – with gardai, judges, university staff, teachers and local politicians among the public figures accused of racist behaviour.
A previous Council of Europe report from February which warned that Irish authorities needed to ensure racial profiling of immigrants did not occur and called for laws prohibiting the practice.
It also said more effort was required to involve local authorities in a scheme to house members of the Traveller and Roma communities.