The UK’s Brexit referendum has caused a growth in the acceptability of racial, ethnic and religious intolerance, the UN special rapporteur on racism said recently.
After finishing a two-week fact-finding mission in the UK and Northern Ireland, Tendayi Achiume said in a statement that she found a “growth in volume and acceptability of xenophobic discourses on migration, and on foreign nationals including refugees in social and print media.”
Racial and religious-based intolerance was also noticeable in political discourse on both the left and right to the point that it has gained ground in mainstream political parties, she said.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
Groups and individuals the UN rapporteur spoke to “raised serious concerns about the failure of political leaders on the left and the right to consistently and unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism and Islamophobia perpetrated in the media, in public spaces and even by members of the UK parliament.”
Various branches of the government had shown support for and built the trust of Jewish communities, Achiume said. But similar measures were lacking in the government’s outreach approach to Muslims, the entire community of which is sometimes scapegoated “as the presumptive enemy” under vague concepts of extremism.
Achiume also criticized Prime Minister Theresa May, who as Home Security in 2012, sought to create what she called a “hostile environment” for illegal immigration.
In recent weeks it emerged that Afro-Caribbean British citizens referred to as the “Windrush Generation” from the 1970s and earlier were threatened with deportation when they could not prove their status.
May’s successor as home secretary, Amber Rudd, resigned over the handling of the fallout on April 29.
Overall, the UN special rapporteur found that the British government has shown leadership and developed legal frameworks to prohibit racial discrimination and intolerance.
However, she said the UK government still had much work ahead to address structural forms of racial discrimination and inequality.
Achiume’s findings are preliminary. Her final report will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019.