London (AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May’s “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants has created hostility for all Britain’s ethnic communities, the UN special rapporteur on racism said Friday.
Britain has a “climate of national anxieties that scapegoat entire religious, racial and ethnic groups as the presumptive enemy,” Tendayi Achiume told a press conference in London, following a two-week fact-finding mission.
Achiume said British racial equality laws provided a firm basis for tackling structural and institutional forms of racism.
But she said: “The structural socio-economic exclusion of racial and ethnic communities in the UK is striking.
“The harsh reality is that race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability status and related categories all continue to determine the life chances and well-being of people in Britain in ways that are unacceptable, and in many cases, unlawful.”
She said Britain’s austerity measures had proved “disproportionately detrimental” to racial minorities.
They “appear inadvertently to function as a prime instrument of racial subordination”, she said.
She suggested that all fiscal policy proposals should be subjected to equality impact assessments.
As interior minister in 2012, May set out creating what she called a “really hostile environment” for illegal immigration.
It emerged in recent weeks that some legal Caribbean child immigrants from the 1970s and earlier have been caught in the so-called Windrush scandal — threatened with deportation as they were unable to prove their status.
Amber Rudd, May’s successor as interior minister, resigned over her handling of the fallout on April 29, the first day of Achiume’s visit.
Achiume said the government’s clampdown on illegal immigration had a “rotten core” that had ended up destroying the lives of racial communities more broadly.
“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 UK.”
On the racial impact of criminal justice law and policy, she said the picture for ethnic minorities “remains grim and has actually worsened”.
In conclusion, she said Britain had shown some leadership in combating racial inequality but had “much more to do”.
Achiume’s preliminary findings are independent of the United Nations and her final report will have no enforcement authority.
It is due to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019.