An independent network of researchers have gathered opinions from diverse communities in Leeds, London and Birmingham – and found that the majority of those surveyed disagreed with the approach used in government campaigns against immigration. The research team also found that the public is uncertain what the government is trying to achieve through these campaigns, with almost a quarter believing that the aim was to increase intolerance.
In response to public concerns about the use of the ‘go home’ van in diverse areas of London and the allegations that immigration checks in London stations targeted non-white travellers for questioning, a group of independent researchers have taken to the streets of multicultural Britain to find out what ordinary citizens make of these tactics.
Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya from the group explained,
“These Home Office campaigns target highly diverse neighbourhoods and impact on the lives of people there. We wanted to get a sense of how people who live in these neighbourhoods feel about being the focus for these government experiments.”
Volunteer researchers conducted a street survey with over 200 individuals and documented their responses to the ‘go home’ vans and immigration checks in stations. Many were shocked that the government was employing these tactics. One Londoner asked ‘Is it an extremist group doing this?’ and was shocked to discover that this was part of a government campaign.
The findings of the study raise serious questions about the impact of such campaigns on social cohesion. The Home office has indicated that both campaigns will be rolled out nationally ‘if effective’. However, these findings show widespread concern about the implications for the wider community.
The survey asked people their views on the campaign to target illegal immigrants through the ‘go home’ van and through immigration checks in stations and other public places.
63% (148 out of 235) surveyed did not agree with the van campaign.
74% (175 out of 235) surveyed thought the phrase ‘go home’ was not acceptable.
79% (185 out of 235) surveyed said it was not acceptable to target immigration checks on the basis of skin colour.
71% (167 responses) thought the van campaign and 75% (176 responses) thought racial-profiling of immigration checks would have an impact on community relations.
A number of those questioned raised the concern that these campaigns would increase intolerance and racism towards all migrants and towards other minority communities, with several using phrases such as ‘divide and rule/divide and conquer strategy’ to describe the Home Office campaigns.
Respondents in every location talked about the threat these government campaigns posed to black and minority communities inBritain, including those settled for many generations.
‘it is basically about UKIP. They (coalition government and their agencies) are
targeting only people of colour. It also creates a climate of fear.’
‘Racism is learned, via campaigns like this, designed to make people feel paranoid. It is designed in a way that white people feel superior. They will not be checked.’
‘The government has political motivations, to “divide and conquer” so that people don’t look at the real issues. It benefits the wealthy to have illegal immigrants. The campaign is hypocritical. The government just wants to be seen to be doing something.’
‘quite clever – because people who are against immigrants are going to notice this and think all immigrants are illegal.’
‘It’s feeding the sense that ‘they’ are taking our jobs, so scaremongering. Immigrants are doing the menial jobs that no one wants to do. I am a taxpayer and the government is wasting my money on this.’
‘It is focusing on colour of skin and people who are not well informed, and encourages them to be racist’
‘Politicians and media are colluding to make the UK a cruel place. There is a
tolerance myth. The UK is becoming a less tolerant place.’
These views from the public echo the concerns of the Equality and Human Rights Commission who are in the process of investigating these two Home Office campaigns and the allegation that they constitute incitement to racial hatred.
The study also confirms the concerns raised by organisations that support migrants. Rita Chadha of RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London) commented,
‘Whilst the government still debates how and when it will evaluate Go Home, RAMFEL is delighted that there is some credible evidence to show that the vast majority of British decent-thinking people oppose such crude attempts to deal with immigration. This survey reflects the absolute urgent need to take control of the immigration debate away from sound-bite politicians and return to a more nuanced discussion within local neighbourhoods across the country.’
Southall Black Sisters – an organisation with a long history of supporting vulnerable women, including those with immigration problems – have protested against recent immigration checks and raids. Pragna Patel explained their concerns about Home Office tactics,
‘Women that we work with are really afraid of being stopped at stations and bus stops and being asked to produce proof of their identity. They have often been subject to horrific violence by their husbands and their immigration status is often insecure and being finalised with our help. These tactics have really increased the climate of fear and compounds the trauma that they have experienced. Many are scared of going out and are curtailing their movements. Even those women that have already gained stay in this country as victims of domestic violence are scared of being stopped or detained.’
This recent study shows that these concerns are shared by people living in neighbourhoods targeted for Home Office actions. The group is compiling a more extended report from the survey findings and will be submitting the completed report to the Home Office and to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
– the survey was conducted in Leeds city centre, Birmingham city centre, Birmingham B11, and in London neighbourhoods targeted by the Home Office, including Walthamstow, Southall, Ealing, Peckham, Stratford, New Cross.