Last week it was that time of year again: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – a noble, necessary and significant day – but how far forward are we with meeting its objectives?
BY FIZZA QURESHI
Interestingly, in September 2016, a resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly called the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It “……strongly condemned acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and committed to a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behaviours, particularly regarding hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence”.
Many couldn’t have predicted what would happen next with Trump’s election and his subsequent order to implement a ‘Muslim and refugee ban’. But likewise, could we have predicted what would happen after the EU referendum vote too?
Racism and the EU Referendum
Last week, the Trades Union Congress, announced its survey on racism experienced by its members in the wake of the EU referendum vote. Of 1003 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic members surveyed, over a third had witnessed or experienced racism. Even Citizens Advice Bureaux have begun to report discrimination cases related to migrant workers since last June. Many have been approaching bureaux seeking advice after they have “already been given notice from their employers stating ‘Brexit conditions’.”
Nothing unusual here though, is there? Racists have been emboldened to air their views because the EU referendum campaign was so heavily focused on immigration. It shows how carefully we need to speak about immigration, but others think otherwise.
A report earlier this month, entitled ‘Racial Self-Interest Is Not Racism’ which polled individuals on their views of racism and integration concluded that white communities that were worried about immigration were not racist, but concerned about their own self-interest, like other ethnic minority groups. It did unfortunately, ignore the fact that white communities are in the majority, and therefore when you are pushing those interests it will it be at the expense of minority communities.
In August last year, the UN condemned the UK for rising hate crime, along with politicians for fuelling some of the anti-migrant and refugee rhetoric while leaving abuses unpunished. Has much has changed since then?
In a Parliamentary debate on 21 March to mark ICERD, a contribution was shared by one MP, on the experience of a constituent “A middle-aged woman, originally from the Philippines, came to see me shortly after the referendum campaign. She was in deep distress………….based on the fact that her next-door neighbour came up to her the day after the referendum, 24 June, and said, “Have you packed your bags yet?” She explained that she was British and had lived in this country for 20 years; she works as a nurse at Leeds General Infirmary. He said, “But have you packed your bags yet?” She said, “Why? I am not European.” He said, “No. We voted yesterday for all of you lot to leave the country.”
Occurrences like this will, unfortunately, be the experience of some of those who have made the UK their home, especially as discussions on migration continue to be toxic. The UN’s New York Declaration has offered significant commitments to “….combating xenophobia, racism and discrimination in our societies against refugees and migrants.” But, we now need a commitment from our politicians to make sure those who are here in the UK, through choice or otherwise are made to feel welcome, and recognise how their presence makes the UK a more incredible place to live.
If you have been the unfortunate victim of, or a witness to, racist or xenophobic hate incident, please report it on iStreetWatch
Fizza Qureshi is the Director of MRN