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Lithuania: Collective denial of racism, studies show

The Lithuanian Ombudsman for Equal Opportunities regularly reports to receive very few complaints about cases of racial discrimination. Many experts see this situation as the sign of a nation-wide collective denial of racism and several have voiced their perspectives on this paradox in the recent months.

Master student Danguolė Kleinaitytė found in her research on Afrophobia that while racial discrimination is still prevalent in Lithuania, nationals deny the existence of racism in the country and think of themselves as tolerant individuals. Racism is not acknowledged as a problem on institutional level neither, she adds; citing examples of court decisions when racial motives in cases of violence against ethnic minorities were rejected.

Representatives of refugee organisations agree with this interpretation. They argue that individuals from minorities are used to being bullied verbally and their children being denied school education, while Lithuanians have a narrow definition of racism and tend to justify their racist comments by their freedom of speech.

In a research on labour market integration, the Lithuanian HR consulting compagny Addelse reveals that prejudice is also an obstacle for refugees and other minority groups to integrate into the Lithuanian labour market, as employers are reluctant to hire immigrants from ethnic and cultural backgrounds different to their own.