The term ‘ethnic profiling’ originated in the United States in the 1990s, where ‘non-white’ drivers were being subjected to a disproportionate amount of road checks. In the course of the counter-terrorism measures taken after the attacks of 11 September, the criteria for ethnic profiling shifted from ethnicity to religious categorisation. This type of profiling has seen increased use in Europe since the attacks in Madrid and London.
The decision of the Administrative Court of Koblenz has caused the phenomenon of ethnic profiling to enter the public debate. Although German law recognises the general principle of equality and has specific legislation in place to protect against discrimination, these provisions do not yet offer protection from ethnic profiling. The Federal Police Act and the Schengen Code offer an instrument to protect against discrimination which should theoretically prevent ethnic profiling. Some Länder resort to so-called Schleierfahndungen (‘veil searches‘), stop-and-search police checks conducted regardless of suspicion, thereby circumventing the protection from discrimination guaranteed by the Schengen Code. Several cases in Germany have verified that ethnic profiling is indeed employed frequently.