Intolerance surges in the UK, Cameron blamed

Hate crimes and other forms of overt bigotry are surging in the United Kingdom, and while the sharpest increase targets Muslims, other victims include people of color, the LGBT community, and the perennial targets of European intolerance, the Roma [previously].

One key reason for the rise was the venomous sentiment whipped up by winguts in their successful campaign for the Brexit, the successful referendum leading to the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union.

But Britain’s Prime Minister comes in for his share of the blame as well.

The rise in bigotry has drawn fire in a special report from the  Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance [ECRI].

First, a video report from RT:

Cameron responsible for rise in xenophobia & racism abuse in UK – watchdog

Program notes:

A report condemning “considerable intolerant political discourse in the UK, particularly focusing on immigration” was published by the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) on Tuesday. David Cameron was singled out, in particular, for describing asylum-seekers arriving from the Middle East and North Africa as a “swarm.”

More on the report from EurActiv:

In a report, the Council’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) condemned “considerable intolerant political discourse in the UK, particularly focusing on immigration”.

“It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians,” said ECRI Chair Christian Ahlund.

“The Brexit referendum seems to have led to a further rise in ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment, making it even more important that the British authorities take the steps outlined in our report as a matter of priority.”

In a shock referendum result, Britain voted on June 23 to leave the 28-nation European Union.

Pro-Brexit supporters campaigned heavily on immigration, and the need to regain control on Britain’s borders, in a referendum battle fought against the background of Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.

Numbers, and assignment of blame

In the following excerpt from the report, note in particular the role in inciting intolerance played by the The Sun, a British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the same loathsome corporation that owns Fox News.

From the report:

According to  the  Home  Office,  there  were  52,528  hate motivated  criminal offences recorded by the police in the year 2014-2015. These include offences of hate  speech  and  violence.  Of  note, 42.930  (82%) belonged  to  the  category  of race  hate  crime;  5,597  (11%)  were  sexual  orientation  hate  crimes;  3,254  (6%) were  religious hate  crimes;  and  605  (1%)  were  transgender  hate  crimes.  There was an overall increase of 18% compared with 2013-14; the largest increase was in relation to religious hate crime (43%).

When broken down further according to type of offence, the data show that 59% of  all hate-motivated  offences in  2014-15  were  public  order  offences (the  vast majority involving public fear, alarm or distress, 30% related to violence against the person and 7% to criminal damage and arson. ECRI was not able to access any data on offences of incitement to hatred recorded by the police.

In addition to reported hate crime, a survey to measure unreported hate crime is conducted  annually.  The  Crime  Survey  for  England  and Wales  is  a  face-to-face victimisation  survey  in  which  persons  aged  16  and  over  are  asked  about  their experiences of crime in the past 12 months. The latest survey data revealed that there are an estimated 222,000 hate-motivated criminal offences on average per year, of  which 106,000  relate to  the  race  strand.  On  comparison  with  the  police figures  above,  it  appears  that  approximately  only  one  in  four  hate-motivated offences is recorded  by  the  police. This may  indicate  deficiencies  in  police recording  of  hate-motivated  offences and unwillingness  of  hate  crime  victims  to report such crime.

Hate speech in political discourse

In  its fourth  report,  ECRI  recommended  that  the  authorities  take  particular  care, when  developing  and  explaining  policies,  to  ensure  that  the  message  sent to society as a whole is not one likely to foment or foster intolerance and it urged the authorities to take measures to tackle the exploitation of racism in politics. In this context,  ECRI  welcomes the  Report  of  the  All  Party  Parliamentary Inquiry into Electoral Conduct, published  in  October  2013,  and  its  2015 General  Election Update, as  good  examples of  politicians actively  encouraging  responsibility to combat racism in political discourse.

Nevertheless, there  continues  to  be considerable intolerant  political  discourse, coming from the populist anti-migrant UK Independence Party (UKIP) as well as other political  actors. Such  discourse has focused,  in recent years,  on the  issue of  immigration.  For  example,  in  the  run-up  to  the  lifting  of  EU restrictions  on access  to  the  labour  market for  nationals  of  Romania  and  Bulgaria,  there  was large-scale scaremongering by UKIP and some Conservative MPs that hundreds of  thousands  of  people  from  the  two  nations  could  soon  be  on  their  way  to Britain. Terms such as “invasions” and “floods” were frequently used as well as the  expression “benefits tourism”, despite a 2013 European Commission study finding no  evidence  that  the  main  motivation  of  EU  citizens  to  migrate  was benefit related. ECRI considers that using such terms contributes needlessly to an  increase  in  xenophobic  sentiments.  The  Council  of  Europe’s  Human Rights Commissioner  stated  that  it  was  unacceptable  to  treat  Bulgarian  and  Romanian citizens like a scourge and that the debate had taken a worrying turn.

Even the Prime  Minister,  when  asked about  the  Calais  crisis in  July  2015, spoke  of  a “swarm” of people crossing the Mediterranean seeking a better life in Britain. The  UN  Special  Representative of  the  Secretary  General for  International Migration accused politicians of adopting a “xenophobic response” to the migrant crisis and said their language had been “grossly excessive”.

Muslims are similarly portrayed in a negative light by certain politicians and as a result   of   some  government   policies. Their   alleged   lack   of   integration and opposition  to  “fundamental  British  values”, leading   to   radicalisation and extremism, is a common theme and contributes to a climate of mistrust and fear of  Muslims.  For  instance, UKIP’s  leader, Nigel  Farage, warned  that  “there  is rising  public  concern  about  immigration  partly  because  people  believe  there  are some Muslims who want to form a fifth column and kill us”.

In January 2016, the Prime  Minister  launched  a  £20  million  language  fund  to  enable  an  estimated 190,000 Muslim women to learn English in a drive to build community integration; while   ECRI   applauds   this   programme,   it   regrets   that   the   Prime   Minister associated it with countering “backward attitudes” and extremism. Some Muslim groups accused him of “disgraceful stereotyping of British Muslims”.

Roma,  Gypsies  and  Travellers  have  also  come  under  attack  by  politicians.  For example,  in  2013  a  Conservative  member  of  Thurrock  Council  referred  to  a Travellers’ planning application as “my big fat Gypsy cesspit” and these words were included in the Thurrock Conservatives press release. A former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in a press release announcing a crackdown on unauthorised camps, referred to some Travellers as a “blight that would  not  be tolerated”.  He  also  said,  in  a  television  interview,  that Travellers could  not  be  allowed  to  “trash”  the  green  belt. Representatives  of  Traveller organisations found the comments highly offensive.

There have also been examples of homophobic comments in political discourse.  The  new Liberal  Democrat  leader sent a  tweet in  July  2015 comparing  the gay community to “fish” and “frogs” and suggested that homosexuality is curable. In April  2015, Northern  Ireland’s Health  Minister claimed that  children raised by same-sex parents are “more likely” to be abused.

ECRI  stresses  that  prejudicial  comments  from  well-known  political  figures have an  impact  on  the  public  and  legitimise  intolerance.  Remarks such  as  those indicated above can only contribute further to the already high levels of hostility in towards certain vulnerable groups, such as Gypsies and Travellers.

ECRI calls  upon  all political  parties to  take  a  firm  stand  against intolerant discourse  and  instruct  their  representatives  to  refrain  from  making derogatory comments  targeting  a  group  of  persons  on  grounds  of  their “race”,  religion, citizenship, language, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hate speech in traditional media and on the Internet.

ECRI  considers  that  hate  speech  in  some  traditional  media  continues  to  be  a serious problem, notably as concerns tabloid newspapers. According to NGOs, the media play a prominent role in encouraging prejudice against Roma, Gypsies and  Travellers,  as  well  as  other  vulnerable  groups. The  European Roma  and Travellers Forum has expressed concern that some media regularly disseminate biased  or  ill-founded information about  these  communities  and  that  they  distort and  exaggerate  facts  and reinforce stereotypes. A 2011  survey  provides evidence  of  high  levels  of  negative  attitudes  in the  media  in  Northern  Ireland to wards  Travellers  and  Eastern  European  Roma.

ECRI  notes  that  certain tabloid   newspapers,   which   are   the   most   widely-read   national   dailies,   are responsible for most of the offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology. The Sun, for instance, published an article in April 2015 entitled “Rescue boats? I’d  use gunships to stop  migrants”, in  which  the  columnist  likened  migrants to “cockroaches”.  ECRI  notes  that  following  this,  the  UN  High Commissioner  for Human  Rights,  emphasising  decades  of  “sustained  and unrestrained   anti-foreigner abuse” in the press, stated that “vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum  seekers  in  the  UK  tabloid  press  has continued  unchallenged  under  the law for far too long”. He urged the authorities and media to take steps to curb such incitement to hatred in line with the country’s obligations under national and international law. The  Sun  newspaper  has  also  published  inflammatory  anti-Muslim headlines, such  as  its  front  page  of  23  November  2015  which  read “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis”, along with a picture of a masked terrorist wielding a knife. Unscrupulous press reporting targeting LGBT is also of concern. In March 2013, a  trans  schoolteacher  committed  suicide  after  being  outed  by  the  Daily Mail tabloid newspaper.

As  concerns  Internet  hate  speech,  ECRI  notes  an  upward  trend. On-line hate speech  targeting  Muslims  in  particular  has  soared  since  2013. This  trend  has been  documented  in  a  paper  on  Islamophobia  and  Twitter as well  as  a recent report of the organisation Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks). Analysis of  Tell  MAMA’s  2014-2015  data  found  that  of  the  548 Islamophobic  incidents reported,  402  took  place  on-line. There  is  also  evidence  that  anti-Muslim  hate targeting  Muslim  women  has increased  on-line,  via  social  networking  sites  such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. According to the above-mentioned report, this has resulted in a permanent sense of vulnerability, fear and insecurity among Muslims.


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