Back in 2013, Theresa May launched her renowned ‘hostile environment’ across the UK; a harsh immigration policy which sought to ensure the UK remained as unwelcoming and difficult as possible for ‘illegal’ immigrants to stay, coercing them to voluntarily leave. By Maddie Grounds.
Racial profiling and ethnic discrimination became the norm for many landlords and employers, encouraged to refuse services to those they deemed as ‘illegal immigrants’ – yet ultimately rejecting individuals with ‘foreign-sounding’ names.
forward to 2018 and the Windrush Scandal exposed the shocking treatment endured by a number of innocent individuals, who after decades of living and working in the UK, were too classified as illegal immigrants. Families and loved ones were separated, arrested and wrongly deported, leaving those in governmental positions vowing that a catastrophe like this could never happen again.
Yet, this May, a Special Rapporteur sent by the UN has uncovered the shocking impact that British hostile immigration policies have continued to have on Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) and immigrants across the country. Whilst May’s hostile environment policy has ‘officially’ come to an end, remnants of ethnic intolerance, scepticism and discrimination continue to permeate the social structures and communities in the UK.
After being asked to examine the prevalence of racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination, the UN Special Rapporteur spoke with representatives within political, private and public realms across a variety of sectors in order to grasp an accurate picture of the social and economic implications of May’s ‘hostile environment’ and the more recent chaotic climate of Brexit. On May 27th, a report was published by the UN Human Rights Council which detailed her findings.
Brexit and austerity measures were outlined as two major catalysts for the rise in racial inequalities, discrimination and xenophobia, with the number of hate crimes in England and Wales rising dramatically in the days after the Leave result. Racial and religious-motivated hate crimes increased by 29% between 2016 and 2017, followed by a spike of an additional 17% the year after.
Drastic cuts of government spending has exacerbated the suffering of BAME communities the most, with those who are particularly vulnerable – children, adolescents and women – experiencing tough and often tragic challenges throughout their everyday lives.
In 2016, the Government carried out a Race Disparity Audit which found that BAME households are twice as likely to live in persistent poverty than white households. Whilst one in ten white British children were likely to be in persistent poverty at the time when the audit took place, the percentage of Asian and black children was more than double this figure (one in four).
Falling under the category of ‘sub-standard’ housing, 28.6% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi households and 24.2% of black households stood considerably higher than the 18.6% of white households living in sub-standard accommodation across the same time period.
Yet, for BAME women, what goes on behind closed doors is far more dangerous than unsanitary or unsafe living conditions. Domestic violence continues to be a serious and dangerous issue for BAME and migrant women, particularly as they are statistically likely to stay quiet for 1.5 times longer when in an abusive relationship, according to the charity SafeLives. Fearful of losing their refugee status, having their UK Marriage Visa revoked and being separated from their children, many migrant women view their domestic violence environments as a less risky option to take.
shocking evidence submitted by women’s rights campaigners Southall Black Sisters and Liberty exposed police forces across England and Wales to report migrant domestic violence victims to the Home Office, trapping victims even further into their abusive relationships.
Life outside the home can be just as distressing for BAME children whose experiences of racial inequality and discrimination continue to pervade their supposed safe-haven; the classroom.
The report particularly magnified the intrinsic link between racial inequality and educational success, stating that “race and ethnicity continue to have a significant impact on educational outcomes”. For example, Afro-Caribbean children are almost three times likely to be permanently excluded from their school compared to their white counterparts. Some schools have even refused to appeal decisions where BAME students have felt they have been wrongly excluded.
Racially-motivated bullying also continues to be a tragic issue affecting many children, particularly the targeting of refugees and asylum seekers.
Whilst the exact outcomes of Brexit remain uncertain, cuts to the public service sector are becoming increasingly inevitable. Currently, the projected deficit caused by Brexit is between £20 billion and £40 billion, a figure which requires public spending cuts to be around £48 billion to compensate for this, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. As a result, The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) has expressed worries that Brexit could particularly harm BAME women through the slashing of services that are most beneficial and specific to them.
to the WBG, 75% of England’s local authorities have had to cut their spending on women’s fundamental and even, life-saving services including domestic abuse shelters, community support networks and places of refuge.
Whilst the slashing of local spending by just under a third in the majority of public services affects individuals from all ethnic backgrounds, it is the lives of BAME women – rather than white British women – that will feel the force of these cuts the most, as it is the smaller groups who offer more BAME-specific needs and care.
With the current political magnifying glass remaining transfixed on the uncertain future that Brexit holds, persistent issues of racial discrimination and inequality continue to be pushed to one side.
May’s hostile environment policy continues to leave its mark on our current social make-up, with divisive attitudes towards BAME individuals and migrants obviously unable to disappear overnight. Instead the government needs to compensate for this era of hostility, creating initiatives, programmes and policies that work towards equality and ensure that every BAME women and child has a full and equal chance in life.