At the end of an 11-day visit investigating the impact of Brexit on racial equality in the UK, the UN special rapporteur on racism reported a “notable shift” in attitudes.
“A Brexit-related trend that threatens racial equality in the UK has been the growth in the acceptability of explicit racial, ethnic and religious intolerance,” said E Tendayi Achiume.
“Stakeholders raised serious concerns about the failure of political leaders on the left and the right to consistently and unequivocally condemn antisemitism and Islamophobia perpetrated in the media, in public spaces and even by members of the UK parliament.”
Ms Achiume said that although far-right parties had not enjoyed the political success seen elsewhere in Europe, extreme views were gaining ground in mainstream political parties on both the right and left.
She highlighted the documented rise in hate crime reported to police following the referendum in June 2016, with incidents increasing almost a third year-on-year to more than 80,000 – the vast majority racially motivated.
Monitoring groups have reported significant rises in both Islamphobic and antisemitic attacks.
“The discourses on racial equality before, during and after the referendum, as well as the policies and practices upon which the Brexit debate has conferred legitimacy, raise serious issue,” Ms Achiume said, warning of a “growth in volume and acceptability of xenophobic discourses on migration, and on foreign nationals including refugees in social and print media”.
She gave no specific examples but the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights raised alarm over reporting of immigration issues in Britain in 2015, singling out a Sun column by Katie Hopkins that compared refugees to "cockroaches" and likening it to pre-genocide discourse in Rwanda.
The rapporteur called on the government to prepare immigration policies ahead of Brexit that protect both EU and non-EU migrants from the threat of racial and ethnic discrimination. [MORE]