The pandemic largely drove a rise in the number of discrimination cases opened in Belgium in the previous year, from the COVID Safe Ticket to the vaccination campaign.
A maximum number of 10,610 reports for suspected offences of discrimination, hate messages, and hate crimes were received by Belgium’s independent public institution that fights discrimination, Unia, in 2021, a rise of 12 percent compared to the last year. The organisation opened 2,379 individual files regarding complaints, which increased by 9 percent.
Director Els Keytsman, at the publication of the annual report 2021, mentioned in the statement, “Behind these files are mainly 2,379 people who have felt discriminated against and for whom Unia reached out to find solutions.”
Moreover, of all the received reports, 35 percent were related to the measures taken in connection with the COVID-19 crisis, 16 percent over in 2020. The COVID Safe Ticket (CST) and the vaccination campaign led to discrimination in access to basic rights such as getting health care and assistance.
The largest share of pandemic-related complaints was against the media (1,054), followed by goods and services (712) and society as a whole (508).
In unia statement highlighted, “This increase is largely explained by the resumption of activities in a number of sectors that were shut down in 2020 due to the health crisis.”
Most of Unia’s files also concerned discrimination in the labour and housing market.
The latter accounted for 45.8 percent of the opened files in the “goods and services” domain, which has increased since 2016, as the housing crisis increased the risk of discrimination due to the lack of affordable and quality housing.
In addition, candidate tenants are mainly discriminated against because of the nature of their income, even though refusing people with unemployment benefits living wage or other social benefits is prohibited by law.
Keytsman mentioned in said, “There is an urgent need for a better insight into the reality of discrimination in the private rental market.”
Various Flemish cities cooperate in combating housing discrimination through correspondence or practical tests, while Brussels, Belgium is now screening for discrimination in the housing market.