by LAUREN CODLING
BLACK and Asian migrants “catch the hellfire” of the immigration debate, a leading rights activist has said, as a report on Monday (20) said UK-born children to migrant parents are
more likely to feel discriminated against than foreign migrants.
According to Migrants and Discrimination in the UK, adult children of migrants born in Britain
are twice as likely to feel discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, accent, language or faith compared to migrants who are new to the UK.
The briefing by the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory also found that migrants from non-EU countries were roughly twice as likely as EU migrants to feel they faced prejudice.
Although the conversation on immigration within the Brexit debate focused upon decreasing the number of EU migrants arriving in the UK, equalities campaigner Lord Simon Woolley acknowledged that non-white people feel they endure a higher level of racism. “It is non-white people, such as Africans and Asians, who catch hellfire in the immigration debate even though the majority of us were born here,” Lord Woolley, founder and director of thinktank Operation Black Vote, told Eastern Eye.
“When racism rears its ugly head, it may be targeted at one community such as eastern Europeans, but it is black people who feel it the most as that is how racism expresses itself the most – with people they can see.”
Lord Woolley chaired the Race Disparity Advisory group at Downing Street under prime minister Theresa May. He said those born in the UK were “more in tune” with the subtle forms of racism, such as being aware they may need to apply for more jobs to get an interview or understanding the body language of people’s discriminatory actions. “They are better placed to feel it and articulate it,” he explained.
New arrivals, Lord Woolley added, were focused on getting a foothold in the UK and therefore either did not understand or would ignore discriminatory practices in order to get on. “The sad part is one would hope those who have been here the longest would demonstrably see a positive difference,” he said. “The reality is in the past few years, there has been a rise in racist instances. This is a challenge for government and white society.”
Sunder Katwala, director of equality thinktank British Future, said although it may seem surprising that children of migrants are more likely to perceive discrimination than their parents, the younger generation tended to hold higher expectations of fair treatment than their parents had after initially migrating to the UK. “This shift in expectations across generations offers important clues to why public and media debates about race often seem to get so polarised,” he told Eastern Eye. “It is certainly true that British society has made significant progress in reducing racism and prejudice over the decades, since I was a teenager. Yet racism and discrimination have not been eradicated – while expectations among the next generation have risen fast too.”
British-born generations are much less likely than our parents to compare opportunities in the
UK to those available in south Asia, Katwala explained. Instead, he said, British-born generations want to hold the UK to the standards it proclaims as shared values, such as the equal citizenship and fair opportunities that they have been told is their birth right.
Oxford’s Migration Observatory’s research also found that 70 per cent of immigrants surveyed thought the UK was welcoming, while 90 per cent believed migrants could make it if they worked hard.
Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, said it was encouraging that most migrants felt the UK was welcoming. However, she noted additional Migration Observatory findings which revealed more than a third of British people would not want any Nigerians or Pakistanis to come to the UK. In contrast, one in 10 would want to stop those from culturally close countries, such as Australia.
“These findings show what we have long known – that a lot of anti migrant sentiment in the UK is rooted in racism,” she told Eastern Eye. She claimed discrimination faced by migrants and their children does not solely come from individual British people – it is also embedded in the structures of the UK’s immigration system. “(It is) a system that allowed Windrush to happen, that uses lists of ‘high-risk countries’ to categorise visa applicants, that unfairly
accused tens of thousands of international students of cheating – stripped them of their visas and denied them a chance to prove their innocence,” she said.
“Our vision is of a society where all migrants and their families are heard, respected, have rights, and are embraced as equal members of our community. This research shows we have a long way to go.”
Author of the briefing and researcher at the Migration Observatory, Dr Mariña Fernández-Reino, described the reasons behind the feelings of increased hostility by the British-born children of migrants as “complex”.
“Some UK-born minorities actually have worse outcomes than migrants, such as higher unemployment,” she explained. “Research also suggests that children of migrants who were born and raised here have higher expectations, so are more sensitive to inequalities or unequal treatment they encounter. By contrast, people who migrated here may compare their experience to life in their country of origin and feel they have benefited from moving, even if they still face some disadvantages.”
Additional findings in the briefing revealed about 13 per cent of the foreign-born population said they had been insulted because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, language or accent.
It also showed that both British and international evidence suggests ethnic minorities are discriminated against in hiring decisions irrespective of the country where they were born or received education.