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21 June 2023

Scapegoating of migrants, Muslims + queer people: an intersectional perspective

At times of domestic instability or economic hardship, demonisation of marginalised groups often increases. In the contemporary British context, the queer community, Muslims and migrants have become the latest targets of Government and right-wing scapegoating. 

Scapegoating and the painting of marginalised communities as “threats” are an established, and effective, distraction mechanism by those in power. Denial of racism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia play a key role in scapegoating. It is used to veil the hate and discrimination that is essential in constructing the idea of a “threat” in the public consciousness. Marginalised groups are often targeted by this deflection. In the culture war that is gripping the UK, migrant groups, Muslims and the queer community have been characterised as the latest “threat” to communities and values. 

Characterising different marginalised groups as a “threat” is necessary for those in power to continue being in power. It is a common mechanism that states use in order to normalise the “state of exception”: where a state suspends the normal legal order by taking exceptional measures against certain communities. Measures like the inhumane Migration Bill or the Nationality and Borders Act. If there is no “threat”, there is no justification for exceptional measures to be taken. So, if a group is constructed as a “threat”, then subjecting that group to restrictive policies becomes justified in the eyes of those in power, and in the eyes of society at large. 

Scapegoating: refugee, migrant + migratised communities

We consistently hear the argument that “it’s not racist to be worried about immigration”. We cannot ignore the fact that the characterisation of certain groups as a “threat” is inherently racialised. The racism underlying the scapegoating of migrants is constantly denied by those perpetuating that scapegoating.  Ultimately, fears around immigration stem from the fear that “Britishness” will morph into something unknown and unfamiliar. In other words, this is the racist fear of demographic change and infiltration of the ‘Other’. 

The language of ‘invasion’, ‘assimilation’ or ‘illegal immigrant’ demonstrates this. Now, with ‘migrant hunters’ visiting Home Office accommodation on a regular basis, we have an issue where the refugees that came to get safety are now feeling threatened and unsafe in the UK and  questioning why they came to the UK. 

Scapegoating of queer people: drag queens and the trans community

Hateful rhetoric and scapegoating aimed at refugee and migrant communities is also being used against the queer community. In the last four years alone, anti-trans hate has skyrocketed by 156% between 2018-2022. Media and politicians alike have devoted lots of airtime to transphobic and homophobic views, with a particular emphasis on constructing the ridiculous yet harmful idea that trans women are a “threat” to cis women. 

Far-right demonstrations outside drag queen story times by fascist organisations like Turning Point are inherently linked to the demonstrations outside Home Office accommodation, since both are underpinned by the demonisation of marginalised communities and the attribution of social ills to the existence of these communities

The intersectional relationship of queerphobia, racism and anti-migrant hate impact many communities in the UK as well as LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. It is no secret that queer asylum seekers experience systemic gaslighting and a ‘disbelief culture’ at the hands of the UK immigration system. We know from our Network that queer asylum seekers are resorting to increasingly drastic and harmful ways to prove their sexuality and/or gender identity to the Home Office. 

It’s time to get uncomfortable

The charity and not-for-profit sector has a duty to acknowledge systems of oppression and must implement an intersectional approach in order to truly tackle injustices in society. It’s time we get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations, regardless of where we sit on the political spectrum or the work we do. That means acknowledging some uncomfortable truths that have continued to be brushed under the carpet in Britain. 

It’s racist to label refugees and migrants as a “threat”. It’s racist to demonstrate outside Home Office accommodation. It’s transphobic to deny trans people access to essential spaces and services. It is queerphobic to demonstrate outside drag queen storytime. 

Stop and unpick your prejudice. Ask yourself who is really making your life more difficult? If we are too occupied by opposing migrants and Muslims and queer people, then what is actually making your life difficult (the oppression perpetrated by the State) continues to go unchallenged.