The European Referendum campaign and the subsequent Brexit vote has lead to a large spike in racism in the UK. Official figures show that recorded hate crime has risen sharply, up by 57% between 2014-15 to 2016-17, with 87% motivated by racial hatred. Hate Crime figures for the 2016-17 are up 17% in England and Wales to 94,100.
Two of the key issues behind this rise in race hate crime are the Brexit campaign and terrorist attacks.
Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) are an anti-racism education charity, and as such, did not make any political statements for or against the European Referendum vote. We were however concerned during the campaign that there was a real stepping up of anti-migrant rhetoric. SRtRC education workers have encountered a rise of racism around immigration for many years now. In 2015, SRtRC combined forces with Migrant Voice to produce a film entitled: “Immigration: What’s the story?” to combat this anti-immigration sentiment and share positive stories of migration to the UK:
This general rise in racism towards immigrants increased considerably with the Brexit campaign vote, leading to a rise in racism in the weeks after the vote, in many areas throughout the UK by over 200%. We received numerous calls with regards to Black British people being told to “go back home”.
We start 2019 with the prospect of a “No deal Brexit” and a possible second referendum vote. There is a very real prospect of immigration again been used as a political tool to whip up support for a second vote against staying in the European Union. Anti-racism campaigners must remain vigilant and be ready to combat this anti-migrant propaganda.
Between Christmas and New Year, less than a hundred migrants crossing the English Channel was described by certain media outlets as a “Migrant Crisis”. The blaming of migrants for a whole series of society’s problems from high house price and low wages, to pressures on our education and NHS, is nothing new. This combined with a mood of a whole section of society believing they are not listened to or valued, could be a highly toxic mix in a new referendum vote. I can see a new referendum vote being even more divisive than the first one and individuals like Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage will undoubtedly be able to build upon support for their anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
2018 saw the Windrush scandal and the “hostile environment” policy of this Government and indeed UK Governments for the last 20 years exposed. Consequently, we live in a society where recorded hate crime in the UK is up 123% in the last six years. We need a UK wide, anti-racism education campaign and a commitment from political parties and the media not to blame immigration for what are society’s problems. As Gary Lineker stated in our film: Immigration: What’s the story?: “The facts are that migrants contribute far more to the UK society than they claim back.” We should be celebrating the contribution immigration has made to our society over the last hundred years. Britain is Great because of immigration and migrants are helping run not just the NHS but many other key services.
The outcome of Brexit is very uncertain, but in order for it not to lead to more hatred and division, there will have to be a concerted campaign to challenge the misconceptions around immigration and celebrate multi-cultural Britain.