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Fair Immigration? Britain’s Leave Campaign Struggles to Persuade Ethnic Minorities on Brexit

If there was a Brexit, analysts broadly expected a surge in market volatility amid uncertainty over what would happen next

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Brexit
The Palace of Culture and Science is illuminated in Union Jack colours by Warsaw's capital authorities in support of Britain staying in the EU, in Warsaw, Poland June 22, 2016. Image Courtesy: Reuters
  • Brexit campaigners are trying to persuade minorities to support their campaigns
  • Whilst there is free movement for EU citizens, some British Asians are particularly unhappy at visa rules that apply to non-EU migrants
  • 14 percent of people in England and Wales identified themselves as non-white in the 2011 census

At a limestone North London temple under the image of the Hindu god Krishna, a British Asian minister is striving to persuade ethnic minorities to support leaving the European Union with a message of ‘fair’ immigration and stronger ties to the Commonwealth. Britain is set to vote on Brexit Thursday, June 23.

Brexit
British Prime Minister. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Despite polls showing Black and Asian Britons are more pro-EU than the rest of the population, prominent Brexit campaigner Priti Patel has led the charge to win over the fastest growing section of the electorate ahead of Thursday’s referendum.

Leave campaigners have used worries about migration from the EU to tell millions of voters whose families hail from former British colonies that a Brexit could make it easier for people to come to Britain from places where their family roots lie.

Whilst there is free movement for EU citizens, some British Asians are particularly unhappy at visa rules that apply to non-EU migrants, making it difficult to bring over relatives for social functions or staff for restaurants.

“This is about having an immigration policy that brings fairness back and takes discrimination off our Commonwealth countries and off communities like the Indian community, the Pakistani community,” Patel told Reuters, as a dozen praying women in colourful traditional dress chanted at the temple.

There is no official definition of an ethnic minority but 14 percent of people in England and Wales identified themselves as non-white in the 2011 census, and nearly 20 percent said they were not white British, a sizeable group that could sway the outcome of a vote which polls show is too close to call.

But the murder of British lawmaker Jo Cox, who had backed refugee causes, has raised concerns about the tone of the debate on immigration and could make some minority voters think twice about backing the Brexit campaign, experts and voters said.

A poster bearing the message: “Breaking Point: The EU has failed us all” against a drop of a long line of refugees, unveiled by the leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, also damaged support among minorities.

At the East London Mosque, one of the largest Muslim places of worship in Europe, one voter said she had been leaning “70 percent” towards backing Brexit until Cox’s murder, which helped tip her in favour of continued membership.

“It made me think that if she is someone who is saying that we should stay in, someone of her character then that’s the right decision to go with,” said 33-year-old Zinia Khan, who works in the voluntary sector.

“You’ve got people like Nigel Farage with that poster and then you’re thinking: What are they going to change? How are they going to make things more difficult for people from black and ethnic minorities… and you feel safer if you’re in.”

Farage, who apologised for any offence caused but not for the content of the poster, has repeatedly denied accusations that UKIP is racist. “It was the truth,” he said on Wednesday.

“NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION”

Black and Asian voters tend to back the pro-EU opposition Labour Party, and the little available polling data and previous voting habits suggest the Brexit campaign has faced a difficult battle to win over minority support.

Whilst polls show Britons evenly split on the eve of the vote, four surveys which provided a breakdown by ethnicity showed that half or more of minorities want to remain in the EU compared to between a quarter and a third who back Brexit.

Only around 20 percent back Brexit according to the most recent nationwide findings from the British Election Study (BES) conducted between April 14 and May 4, similar to the 28 percent who supported an exit in a May 2015 Survation poll.

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A YouGov poll taken this month in London, the most diverse part of Britain, showed 52 percent of non-white Londoners backed EU membership, compared to 46 percent of white respondents.

Maria Sobolewska, a specialist in ethnic minority public opinion at Manchester University, said while many minorities backed tougher rules on immigration, they did not trust some of the leading campaign figures such as Farage.

“They don’t like the messengers,” she told Reuters.

“They do have to worry about what it means to hand these people a win and whether it would lead to more isolationist policies but they certainly think: these people are not friendly to minorities.”

While many minority voters share concerns felt by some white Britons about the impact of immigration on the National Health Service (NHS) and housing, polling shows they are less worried about the cultural impact.

“What we know in election studies is that the main difference on issue preferences, which are very similar – jobs, the economy, the NHS – is that immigration ranks lower,” said Sunder Katwala, director of non-partisan think-tank British Future, which focuses on migration and identity.

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Demographic factors could also help explain higher support for EU membership among ethnic minority communities which the Brexit campaign could find difficult to overcome.

Britain’s black and ethnic minorities are younger on average than the white British population, with younger voters among the most pro-EU regardless of background.

There are also distinct differences between Britain’s ethnic communities, many of whom hail from disparate Commonwealth nations in Africa and Asia, according to both the British Election Study and the Survation poll.

Only 42 percent of Bangladeshi Britons want to stay in the EU compared with 63 percent of those from a black African background and 65 percent of Chinese voters, according to BES.

British Indians, the country’s biggest ethnic minority group numbering some 1.4 million people, are marginally more pro-European than the wider population but half said they would either back Brexit or had yet to make up their minds.

“I think the Asian community is divided in the sense that they haven’t got enough information,” said Conservative Councillor Manji Kara, outside the Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir temple near Wembley Stadium during Patel’s visit.

A supporter of Brexit, he said his scientist son wanted to stay in the EU and that many others in the Asian community were leaning to remaining in the EU without all the facts.

“Quite a few of the people think they should vote for ‘In’ without actually realizing what’s in it for them if they stay in or what are the benefits of getting out,” Kara said.

-prepared by Saurabh Bodas (with inputs from Reuters), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter Handle: @saurabhbodas96

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Reported Cases of Sexually Transmitted Disease Up by 70% in Europe Since 2010

Amato-Gauci said complacency among men who have gay sex and seem unconcerned about HIV risks appeared to be fuelling the problem

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sexually transmitted disease
A nurse takes blood from a man for a free HIV test on a bus in Tehran, Dec. 16, 2015. In Europe, for the first time since the early 2000s, syphilis is more common in some countries than new cases of HIV, health experts said Friday. VOA

Syphilis cases have soared in Europe over the last decade and become, for the first time since the early 2000s, more common in some countries than new cases of HIV, health experts said Friday.

Reported cases of the sexually transmitted disease are up by 70% since 2010, a report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showed, with the rise driven by more unprotected sex and riskier sexual behavior among gay men.

“The increases in syphilis infections that we see across Europe … are a result of several factors, such as people having sex without condoms and multiple sexual partners, combined with a reduced fear of acquiring HIV,” said Andrew Amato-Gauci, an ECDC expert on sexually transmitted infections.

The European report comes after the World Health Organization said last month that around a million people each day worldwide catch a sexually transmitted infection.

sexually transmitted disease
FILE – A billboard above a gas station, April 1, 2016, promotes testing for sexually transmitted diseases. The number of cases of STDs – chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – in California reached a record high in 2017. VOA

Left untreated, syphilis can have severe complications in men and women, including causing stillbirths and newborn deaths and increasing the risk of HIV. Syphilis was one of the leading causes of baby loss globally in 2016.

The Stockholm-based ECDC, which monitors health and disease in Europe, said that overall, more than 260,000 syphilis cases were reported from 30 countries from 2007 to 2017.

In 2017, syphilis rates reached an all-time high with more than 33,000 reported cases, the ECDC said. This meant that for the first time since the early 2000s, the region reported more cases of syphilis than new cases of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.

But the problem varied significantly by country, with rates more than doubling in five countries — Britain, Germany, Ireland, Iceland and Malta — but dropping by 50% or more in Estonia and Romania.

sexually transmitted disease
Amato-Gauci said complacency among men who have gay sex and seem unconcerned about HIV risks appeared to be fuelling the problem. Pixabay

Close to two-thirds of the cases reported between 2007 and 2017 where sexual orientation was known were in men who have sex with men, the ECDC report said, while heterosexual men contributed 23% of cases and women 15%.

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The proportion of cases diagnosed among men who have sex with men ranged from less than 20% in Latvia, Lithuania and Romania to more than 80% in France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain.

Amato-Gauci said complacency among men who have gay sex and seem unconcerned about HIV risks appeared to be fuelling the problem. “To reverse this trend, we need to encourage people to use condoms consistently with new and casual partners,” he said. (VOA)