A new survey on hate crimes in Europe has found that the level of hate crimes based on sexual orientation is rising, and that governments are failing to report the crimes.

The 2007 Hate Crime Survey was released today by Human Right First, a leading human rights organisation, and also covers hate crimes based on race, faith and disability.

Maureen Byrnes, executive director of Human Rights First said: “The growing public presence of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community in many countries has resulted in a violent backlash.

“These crimes often go unreported because the bias and stigma against these groups remain high and many governments fail to offer sufficient protections for victims of anti-gay crime.”

The 2006 pride parade in Riga, Latvia is cited as an example, although the parade went ahead peacefully and protected by the police this year.

It says that homophobia is not only a problem for gay individuals, but also “for people thought to have gay attributes.”

The report finds that only ten countries in Europe and North America currently have laws which enable a sexual orientation bias to be considered an aggravating circumstance in the commission of a crime.

Only Canada, Sweden, the UK and the US have made a commitment to monitor homophobic attacks in their official reporting on hate crimes.

The report says: “Leaders of the gay communities in many countries charge that there is a serious underreporting of these crimes, due in part to anti-gay prejudices – both real and perceived – on the part of the police.”

The study urges governments to adopt stricter laws, provide more resources to law enforcement and establish official systems to monitor and report hate crimes on a regular basis.