This report is drafted in the framework of the ISF-funded project 'PoMigra' (= Politically motivated crime in the light of current migration flows). It provides a systematic literature review of the research published between 2012 and 2017 on different types of politically biased crime in Belgium, and what research stated about the data collection methodologies on these crimes by law enforcement agencies in Belgium. To be precise, we have collected and analysed research publications related to (a) Salafist/jihadist crimes, (b) xenophobic crimes, (c) extremist crimes and (d) inter-migrant crimes. This report thereby enables a better understanding about contemporary research on these topics in Belgium, which is essential in better understanding its challenges, threats, and links to the issue of migration.
It first became clear that the theme Salafist/jihadist crime accounts for the bulk of research on politically motivated crimes in Belgium. Different forms of politically biased crime – such as xenophobic crime and extremism – receive substantially less attention by researchers in Belgium. Moreover, it became clear that there is hardly any work published on left-wing extremism, and inter-migrant crimes with an political bias. These are substantial knowledge gaps in the literature on this theme.
Second, the available research tends to focus on describing the nature and causes of these phenomena. It did, however, became clear that neither of these two issues is an easy task. The conceptual and practical ambiguity of different forms of politically biased crime complicate this endeavor. This impacts assessments on the size and causes of this phenomenon (especially with respect to xenophobic and extremist crimes). There are few objective datasets available. Some of the overarching lessons that are often drawn by research on this topic, however, focus on the importance of a locally embedded, comprehensive and inclusive approach in preventing these types of politically motivated crimes.
Finally, with respect to the data collection methodologies by law enforcement authorities, it comes as no surprise that we did not found a lot of research on the data collection methodologies with respect to these themes. In general, it became clear that it is hard to define and grasp the phenomenon of politically biased crime empirically. Both law enforcement authorities and research grapple with this problem.