German watchdog reports ‘alarming’ number of discrimination complaints

Germany’s federal Anti-Discrimination Agency received 5,617 complaints in 2021 - the second-highest number since its founding in 2006.

Germany's Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency Head Ferda Ataman, presents the agency's 2021 report at a press conference on 16 August 2022.
Germany's Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency Head Ferda Ataman, presents the agency's 2021 report at a Berlin press conference on 16 August 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Instances of discrimination, particularly those involving racism, remain at historically high levels in Germany.

That’s according to a report released on Tuesday by Germany’s federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, which presented its figures from 2021.

The Antidiskriminierungsstelle (ADS), which was founded in 2006, provides counselling and advice to complainants, while conducting research and reporting on discrimination in Germany to the federal parliament.

The report released on Tuesday reveals that 2021 saw the second-highest annual number of complaints in the agency’s history. 2020 saw the highest number of complaints, with 6,383 instances reported.

“The number is alarming,” said agency head Ferda Ataman. 

Ataman brought up several examples during her press conference. “A wheelchair user reported to us that they weren’t allowed to board a bus, even though the bus was wheelchair accessible and there were enough places on it,” Ataman said. “A young woman reported to us that she was asked in a job interview when she wanted to become pregnant, even though asking that question isn’t allowed. A lesbian couple reported they were turned down for a home.”

Racism complaints made up the single largest share of cases – accounting for 37 percent of all complaints to ADS in 2021.

READ ALSO: What Germans really think about the country’s racism problem

Complaints related to disability and chronic illness accounted for 32 percent of cases, followed by sex (20 percent), age (10 percent), religion (6 percent), sexual orientation (4 percent) and worldview (3 percent).

As for where the incidents occurred, a third involved complaints from people who were denied access to private services, such as shops, supermarkets, or restaurants. 28 percent related to discrimination people faced in the workplace.

More than a third of cases, however, occurred in places where the government’s anti-discrimination law only partially applies. These include within the police, in court, in education, or in open public spaces.

“Unfortunately, discrimination is still part of everyday life in Germany,” said Ataman.

Among other measures, Ataman called for a reform of German anti-discrimination law to cover more areas and give people longer than eight weeks to report an incident. She also called for more offices where people could file complaints.

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German vice-chancellor backs armband protest at World Cup

Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck counselled the German men's national team to wear the "OneLove" armband banned by FIFA as they prepare to face Japan at the World Cup on Wednesday.

German vice-chancellor backs armband protest at World Cup

“I suppose you have to wear the armband now. I would maybe take my chances,” Habeck told German public broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.  “I would be interested to see what the referee does when someone with the armband comes over.”

The rainbow armbands had been viewed as a symbolic protest against laws in World Cup host Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Captains of several European teams had planned to wear the symbol as part of a campaign for diversity during the tournament hosted by Qatar, but they have backed down over the threat of disciplinary action from FIFA, world football’s governing body.

The teams have however come under fire at home for failing to take a stronger stand against FIFA’s stance on the armbands.

READ ALSO: Germany turns rainbow-coloured in protest at UEFA stadium ban

Amid the criticism, national team director Oliver Bierhoff suggested that some action by the German players may be possible.

“We will see. This has preoccupied the players a lot,” he told public broadcaster ARD on Wednesday.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who will attend the Germans’ opening game in the Qatari capital Doha, said FIFA’s ban was a “huge mistake”.

Not only players, but fans too should be allowed to show pro-LGBTQ symbols “openly”, she told reporters in Qatar Wednesday.

Security staff at the tournament have ordered spectators to remove items of clothing featuring rainbow logos.

Supporters should “make a decision for themselves” about whether they wanted to wear the symbols, Faeser said.

Meanwhile, Germany’s top-selling Bild daily also urged the German team to make a public stand for diversity.

In a commentary, it said the “courage trophy” can be won by those “who give this World Cup back its dignity”.

“A team that wears the ‘OneLove’ armband and that doesn’t simply cave in. A fan terrace that appears in rainbow colours, a sportsman who turns his national anthem in a song that honours both his country and freedom,” it said.