Foreigners exposed to hate crimes can now seek help through new accredited service

The service is run by the Human Rights League organisation.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Pixabay)

Victims of hate crimes, especially foreigners and refugees, will find free legal and social assistance or the assistance of a cooperating psychologist and lawyer in the Human Rights League (HRL) non-governmental organisation.

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A new accredited service has been available to victims of hate crimes since the beginning of January, following an accreditation from the Justice Ministry. The provision of this free aid is currently facilitated by the SalamSK project, funded by the European Union.

“This project concerning the assistance to hate crime victims fills a gap that has existed in this field in Slovakia so far, especially in relation to foreigners, said Zuzana Števulová, HRL director and lawyer.

As she said, they were approached by several clients from different countries last year, people who experience hateful or discriminatory treatment in their lives due to their origin or religion. Through the accreditation, the organisation will be able to help in a targeted and effective manner, improving the enforceability of victims' rights.

“The 2020 report of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe on Slovakia reports on the increase of attacks on foreigners and Muslims along with the high latency – that is, their distrust in justice and thus the non-reporting of these acts to the police – and we believe that we will soon be able to improve the situation,” Števulová said.

Information materials and new offices for victims

HRL provides information materials, including leaflets and videos, in six languages: Slovak, English, Arabic, Persian, Ukrainian and Serbian. They will also be distributed to all locations where potential victims may come into contact with these materials.

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People who have experienced or are experiencing hate treatment or attacks can contact the HRL in person each working day at the Bratislava office on Račianska Street, alternately by email or telephone.

The organisation cooperated with the Interior Ministry's crime prevention department in preparing a video for foreigners. The ministry has set up 16 information offices for victims throughout Slovakia, in which citizens of other nationalities, foreigners, victims of hate crimes and extremism will find help, basic information or guidance in further proceedings, said Jozef Halcin, head of the department.

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“We must not forget that there must be no borders in helping (not only) foreigners in need,” Halcin added. “It is therefore our duty to increase their trust in our services.”

In addition, on the HRL website people can find a webinar presenting available services, and a survey by the Islamic Foundation in Slovakia on the experiences foreigners and Muslims have had with hatred in the country.

“According to the survey, almost 60 percent of Muslims in Slovakia have experienced hate speech,” said Mohamad Safwan Hasna, director of the Islamic Foundation in Slovakia. “We are working with the HRL to improve the situation, find solutions and help, and support this community.”

The results of the survey can be found in the Refugees and Migrants as Victims of Hate Crimes – Prevention, Assistance and Protection report.

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