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Security

Racist violence in Western Europe not driven by fear of unemployment

PERSBERICHT, 1 October 2015 - In Western Europe racist violence appears to be mainly determined by the size of the immigrant population in a certain region rather than by levels of welfare or unemployment.

That is one of the conclusions reached by John van Kesteren of INTERVICT, the International Victimology Institute Tilburg. Van Kesteren will defend his PhD research on Friday October 2nd at Tilburg University.

John van Kesteren analyzed data of the International Crime Victim Survey, a vast long-term research project by Tilburg University concerning crime and attitudes toward crime in 84 countries. Van Kesteren looked into the role of gun possession in relation to violent crime, attitudes toward punishment, and racially motivated crimes, in other words: hate crimes.

Xenophobia and cultural diversity

A remarkable finding of the research is that the amount of hate crimes in Western-Europe is related to the number of immigrants living in a certain region regardless of welfare or unemployment levels. The common assumption that hate crimes are motivated by economic seems therefore unfounded. Instead, xenophobia seems to be mainly related to cultural diversity.

Urban nightlife

Furthermore the data show that young immigrants are most vulnerable to racially motivated crime. Other important factors are however living in a big city, a low income and an active nightlife, which is the same victim profile as that of other violent crimes.  

Strikingly, Van Kesteren found that the indigenous population also falls victim to hate crimes[1]. Seven per cent of the respondents were immigrants and they counted for a quarter of all hate crimes. This means that 75% of the victims of hate crimes belong to the indigenous population.

Western Europe different

In contrast to Western Europe, regions with a lager immigrant population in de United States and Australia do not show more racist violence. In Western Europe tensions between first or second generation immigrants and the indigenous population appears to be stronger.

Other findings

Van Kesteren further discovered that victims of a break-in are not necessarily of the opinion that the perpetrators should be punished more heavily. In addition, gun owners run more risk of becoming a victim to violent crime than people who don’t own a gun.


[1] 30.000 people in 15 Western European countries were asked: ‘In the past 5 years, did you, or any member of your immediate family fell victim of a crime because, or partly because of your nationality, race or color, religious belief or sexual orientation?’

Note for editors

John van Kesteren will defend his PhD thesis on Friday October 2nd, 2015 at 10 a.m. in the Auditorium of Tilburg University. Title thesis: Criminal victimization at individual and international level. Results from the International Crime Victim Surveys. Supervisors: Prof. J.M. Van Dijk; Prof. A. Pemberton. For more information please contact John van Kesteren at j.vankesteren@tilburguniversity.edu or tel. +31 13 13 466 2993 (press office).