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Sunday, June 16, 2019

The growth of racism in the UK

A United Nations report has claimed that austerity measures and ”hostile environment“ policies adopted by the government have entrenched racism and stoked xenophobic sentiment in the UK.

Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s special rapporteur on racism, who visited the UK on a fact-finding mission last year, described the “structural socioeconomic exclusion” of racial and ethnic minorities in the UK as “striking”. She said race, ethnicity, religion, gender and disability status all continued to determine the life chances and wellbeing of people in Britain in ways that were “unacceptable and, in many cases, unlawful”.

As the Independent says, hHer report said austerity measures had been “disproportionately detrimental” to people of racial and ethnic minorities. It highlighted that these groups were also overrepresented in criminal justice enforcement and underrepresented within the institutions that adjudicate crime and punishment:

In a damning indictment of the UK’s approach to immigration enforcement, Ms Achiume also called for an end to the hostile environment, saying it “relied on private citizens and civil servants to do frontline immigration enforcement, effectively transforming places like hospitals, banks and private residences into border checkpoints”.

She added: “In a broader context of national anti-immigrant anxiety, the predictable result of the UK government’s immigration policy and enforcement is racial discrimination and racialised exclusion. The Windrush scandal is a glaring example.”

The rapporteur said her findings should not come as surprise to the government, as their own data and reports – including the Race Disparity Audit, the Lammy Review, and the work of the UK Equality Commission – substantiated the “persistent exclusion and marginalisation of racial and ethnic minorities”

The report also points to government data showing that the Brexit referendum coincided with a spike in hate crimes, anti-migrant rhetoric, and racial, ethnic and religious discrimination.

“To be clear, Brexit has not newly introduced racism and xenophobia to the UK – both have a long legacy that extends as far back as the historical European projects of slavery and colonialism,” said Ms Achiume. “That said, national debates and certain practices and policies before, during and after the Brexit referendum in 2016 have amplified racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the UK. Public and private actors have played dangerous roles in fuelling intolerance.

“Among them, politicians and media outlets deserve special attention given the significant influence they command in society.”

Whether you agree with this analysis or not (and the UK Government does not, arguing that it mischaracterises their policies and incorrectly argues that recent events have catalysed what are in fact long-term trends), it does give an indication of how the UK is viewed by many people outside of our borders, post-Brexit.

In that regard Ministers should take it seriously, and respond more positively with clear initiatives to reverse and tackle the racism and exclusion that is highlighted, and which clearly does exist across the country.
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