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Friday, August 25, 2017

Has UK Government rhetoric stoked hate crime?

t is a well-established statistic that the number of recorded hate crimes rose following the EU referendum, with people from non-UK ethnic backgrounds being abused in public. Now, a report by a cross-party group of MPs has accused the Government of fuelling “toxic” anti-immigrant feeling though its unachievable targets and general rhetoric on immigration.

The Independent reports that the inquiry from a cross-party group of politicians said Theresa May’s discredited target of cutting net migration to under 100,000 was particularly to blame for “stoking anxiety” that has accompanied unprecedented hate crime following the Brexit vote.

At the same time new official immigration data shows the number of European Union citizens wanting to come to the UK is collapsing, raising fears of a pending crisis in the labour market. And, just for completeness, it has emerged that ministers have for years vastly overestimated the number of foreign students staying in Britain:

In their report, Integration Not Demonisation, the politicians were damning about the Government’s controversial target to bring annual net migration down to tens of thousands.

They said: “By setting targets for the reduction of immigration which were never achievable and which they inevitably went on to miss repeatedly, ministers undermined public confidence in the ability of the Government to manage immigration.

“Rather than defusing public concerns regarding demographic and cultural change, then, officials have unnecessarily stoked anxiety over immigration and encouraged the growth of populist anti-immigrant sentiment.”

Calling on fellow politicians to tone down their language, the group warned that rhetoric used during the EU referendum led some people to feel “they could act on racist attitudes which had previously gone unexpressed”.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration pointed to a marked increase in incidents of racist abuse directed at migrants and an unprecedented spike in racially or religiously aggravated hate crime in the months following the Brexit vote.

They called for a major drive to integrate immigrants, warning that they increasingly lead “parallel lives” in Britain and proposed compulsory English classes for newly arrived migrants who cannot speak it, funded by loans to be repaid once they reach a salary threshold like student loans.

The demonization of immigrants and the openly racist language of some Brexiteers, particularly in UKIP, during the referendum campaign has undermined good community relations and led to an increase in racist violence and abuse. That cannot be allowed to continue. The Government must tone down its own rhetoric and policies to help to repair the damage they have done.
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