by NADEEM BADSHAH
THE number of British Asians who feel they are part of their neighbourhood has fallen sharply, government figures showed.
Experts believe rising hate crime since the Brexit referendum and families moving to wealthier parts of the UK are the main causes behind the drop. Between 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, the number of Asians feeling they belonged to their neighbourhood fell from 65 per cent to 59 per cent.
Overall, 62 per cent of white and black people aged 16 and over in England said they felt part of their local area.
The Community Life Survey, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, found that the figure was 61 per cent among people of mixed race with the biggest drop from the south Asian community with the figure at 64 per cent in 2016/17.
Kulbir Randhawa, director of the Asian Family Counselling Service in west London, told Eastern Eye: “Due to Brexit, hate crime has increased. Our communities don’t feel safe any longer. Immigration rules are unclear, causing anxiety. The far right are feeling braver to expose their hardened views.”
She added: “Asian communities used to live in areas like Southall where they could congregate at their temples, gurdwaras and mosques and feel a sense of belonging.
“The younger generation have aspirations, and as they become more affluent, are taking their families out to previously very white surrounding areas such as Richmond, Windsor, Datchet.
“The children are easily becoming integrated, but it is their parents that feel unconnected and isolated. The sense of community is lost – it takes a long time to form a neighbourhood.”
The survey also found that 83 per cent of Asians felt “fairly or very strongly” that they belong to Britain compared to 85 per cent of white people and 75 per cent from the black community.
The Community Life Survey looks at volunteering and charitable giving, a person’s views about their area and cohesion, their well-being and community engagement. It comes after Home Office figures for England and Wales showed a 10 per cent rise in hate crimes recorded.
There were a record 103,379 offences in 2018-19, which has more than doubled since 2013. The majority were racial – 78,991 – which increased by 11 per cent in the past year.
Fiyaz Mughal OBE, director of the Faith Matters charity, told Eastern Eye: “The drop in feelings of interconnectedness between Asians and their local neighbourhood shows that feelings of identity, safety and security are fluid.
“We know that a rise in hate crimes has made some people feel unsafe and insecure.
“This leads to withdrawal and a sense of dislocation from local neighbourhoods”.
Labour MP Khalid Mahmoud said the trend was partly down to the government’s “hostile” immigration policies and the pro-Brexit campaign.
He said: “They decided with a xenophobic campaign, pitting people against each other. So some people’s perception was others are taking services like the NHS away from them.
“Austerity divides people as when there is scarce resources, they blame people.
“Over the past five years, immigration policies like the ‘Go Home boards’ have made people uneasy in Britain. We have to bring communities back together by putting resources in.”
As part of Hate Crime Awareness Week last week, Imams Online and Faith Associates held a national Khutbah (sermon) day to urge mosque leaders to highlight the issue.
Imam Qari Asim, chair of the Mosque and Imam National Advisory Board, said: “The aim of this special service is to explore factors behind alarming levels of hatred and find progressive solutions.
“We should be able to disagree without being abusive towards others. We must all work together to tackle Islamophobia and all other forms of hate and prejudice in our society.”