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Trevor Phillips urges greater focus on community integration

He said that despite superficial workplace interactions, many communities still live separately

FILE PHOTO: Sir Trevor Phillips poses after being made a Knight Bachelor by the Prince of Wales during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on November 8, 2022 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Andrew Matthews – Pool/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

BROADCASTER and former EHRC chair Sir Trevor Phillips has said ministers should do more to encourage integration among communities.

Sir Trevor, who in his previous role as head of the Commission for Racial Equality, warned in 2005 about Britain sleepwalking into segregation, said in an interview this week that minority groups (today) were mixing, but only with each other.

“I think that there is a complacency about the extent to which our version of multiculturalism is working,” he told the Telegraph on Thursday (31).

“Go to a town in the north west, Burnley or Preston, or Leicester, and you will find people get on perfectly well at work. But at 5pm they go back to the streets, in which everybody who lives there are people like themselves. Now, none of this is a crime. But it is not consequence free.”

The former Labour party politician is the new host of Sunday Politics Show on Sky News.

He highlighted the need to differentiate between various groups of immigrants, both legal and illegal, as well as asylum seekers and those who cheat the system.

“We are now beginning to treat all immigrants as though they are a single mass: asylum seekers, people who come legally, people who are here because of family reunification, and people who basically just cheat the system. We’ve got to find who the illegal immigrants are – we’re now talking about upwards of a million people – very little effort is going into that, because actually, it benefits quite a lot of people,” he was quoted as saying.

“Secondly, once you have found illegal immigrants, they should be treated fairly. Most people of a migrant background will take that view because most of us did it the hard way.”

Drawing from personal experience, the broadcaster said it was important to treat immigrants fairly, especially those who arrive in Britain via legal routes.

“I think it’s reasonable that those people resent the sense that people who are young, able bodied and if you’re paying to cross the Channel, well-off, can cheat the system,” he added.

Sir Trevor revealed that as chair of EHRC the decision to close down adoption agencies that would not take same-sex couples was the most difficult one.

“The community I come from would wholly support the idea that same-sex couples should not be given children. It was a very unpopular position amongst minority communities. But there are LGBT people who say: ‘What about us?’ I chose the side of equality, rather than my tribe,” he said.

In his opinion, when a person takes politics seriously, it’s natural that not everyone will like them.

He said, “The people who sneer at politicians are generally people who’ve never made a decision, bigger than what colour socks to wear today. I think that the whole scepticism around politicians is just not right. Most of them try to do their best. Some of them are not very good at it.”

Sir Trevor said his belief that a bias against those in positions of authority exists. There’s a notion that anyone in a position of power is inherently perceived as negative, and this could hurt democracy, he said.

On his show, he revealed his wishlist of guests, including Salman Rushdie and Jamie Dimon (the boss of JP Morgan) to facilitate discussions on issues ranging from freedom of speech to the cost-of-living crisis.

Additionally, he plans to delve into mental health topics, after the death of his 36-year-old daughter Sushila to anorexia, in 2021.

“There is no day I don’t think about her. She was also, in many ways, my collaborator, and actually doing the show wakes some of that up. She left an imprint on all of us,” he said.

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