The government’s austerity programme has entrenched racial inequality in the UK, a UN expert on racism has concluded in a report that also describes the Windrush scandal as a “glaring example” of discrimination in the UK’s immigration policy.
National debates in the aftermath of the EU referendum “amplified racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the UK” said Tendayi Achiume, the UN’s special rapporteur on racism.
“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,” she said, without naming the politicians or media outlets she had in mind.
It is the second highly critical UN report on UK government policy to be published in the last month, after a UN poverty expert compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and said the UK’s poorest people faced lives that would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” unless austerity was ended.
Achiume completed her research in 11 days in the UK last year, visiting seven cities and two detention centres. She said austerity measures had been “disproportionately detrimental to members of racial and ethnic minority communities, who are also the hardest hit by unemployment.”
The report cites research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission estimating that by 2022 black households will have seen a 5% loss in income because of austerity measures, double the loss for white households.
Despite the existence of a legal framework devoted to combating racial discrimination, Achiume said race and ethnicity “continue to determine the life chances and wellbeing of people in Britain in ways that are unacceptable and, in many cases, unlawful.”
Achiume, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said a hostile environment “ostensibly created for, and formally restricted to, irregular immigrants is in effect a hostile environment for all racial and ethnic communities and individuals in the United Kingdom.”
She added: “The UK’s immigration enforcement strategy relies on private citizens and civil servants to do frontline immigration enforcement, effectively transforming places like hospitals, banks and private residences into border checkpoints. 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 radicalised exclusion. The Windrush scandal is a glaring example.”
Chai Patel, the legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “We are in violation of international human rights law because of Theresa May’s hostile environment. The priority of our next prime minister must be to free the country from that toxic legacy.”
David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, said: “Decent people across the country will be ashamed that the British government is now receiving international condemnation from the UN, in particular for the hostile environment which turns doctors and landlords into border enforcement officials.
“The gruesome mishandling and abuse of the Windrush generation by the Home Office is unsurprisingly highlighted in the report, but it is just one of many failings which highlight the depth and breadth of Theresa May’s toxic legacy.”
Austerity has fuelled racial inequality in the UK, says UN expert – The Guardian