Thursday, 12 April 2018

Half of Young Eastern European Nationals have Experienced Racism since Brexit Vote

Researchers from the Universities of Strathclyde, Plymouth and Durham, have compiled a report of a survey of 12 to18 year olds from Eastern European countries, living in the UK, entitled ‘Here to Stay?’ The study is important because it presents the first analysis since the Brexit Referendum on how current plans for Britain to leave the European Union (EU) are impacting on young Eastern Europeans’ lives.

1,100 young people were surveyed and on a range of issues including Brexit and their plans for the future. Nearly half (49.2%) said that they have personally experienced racism since the Brexit referendum in 2016. The majority (77%) of these young people said they had experienced racism because of their nationality, accent or the way that they look. For 1 in 5 young people (18.7%) these racist experiences happen ‘often’ or ‘very often.’

These experiences ranged from ‘everyday racism’ such as name calling, ‘jokes’ and friendly banter over accents, looks or country of origin, to physical attacks on young people, their family members and damage to their homes or property. These incidents included face-to-face and online attacks.

Marlyn, a 16 year old young Polish woman who took part in the survey said:

“At my house when my neighbour called my brother an immigrant (although he was born here), at school I had people telling me to fuck off back to my country, a girl throwing bricks and rocks at me and yelling racist things and more incidents.”

The Brexit Referendum has created a more divided society. These young people say that the debates on Brexit have polarised communities into pro and against Europe and European citizens. For many young people who have migrated to the UK as children, Britain is their home and social divisions make them feel unwelcome and anxious.

Many of those surveyed said that they had altered their accents to appear to be British and even the way they dress. Many now feel that their future may lie away from the UK and are studying other European languages, for when they finish their education. Dorota, an 18 year old young Polish women said:

“I don’t want to stay in a country in which I need to hide my nationality to be treated equally. I’m learning German now so that my job prospects will not be limited after I finish university and move out of Britain.”

When asked about how they felt about the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the majority said that they felt ‘uncertain’, ‘worried’ or ‘scared’ over their future, others reported feeling ‘sad’ and ‘angry.’

The UK government should have guaranteed the right to stay in this country to EU nationals immediately after the referendum result. Indeed, even a leading Brexiter, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, said at the time, that 'it was the decent thing to do.’ But it didn’t happen, the government wanted to use these people as bargaining chips in the exit negotiations with the EU.

The whole Brexit process has been a shameful exercise for the UK. By guaranteeing the right to stay here unilaterally, it would have been seen as a gesture of goodwill on the part of Britain by the EU, but the reverse has been true. These people and their parents came to this country, completely legally and in good faith. No wonder many of the young people surveyed feel worried about the future for them in the UK.

The spike in hate crimes committed against EU nationals after the referendum has left me feeling ashamed to be British (English). I reported on this blog shortly after the referendum on the extent of the almost casual racism that had emerged. This is a short quote, but there are more examples in the post.

‘In Gloucester, Max Fras said he was in a Tesco supermarket on Friday night with his young son when a white man became agitated in the queue for the checkout and began yelling: “This is England now, foreigners have 48 hours to fuck right off. Who is foreign here? Anyone foreign?”

Fras said the man began quizzing people in the queue about where they were from. “He pointed at another gentleman in front of him and said: ‘Where are you from, are you Spanish? Are you Italian? Are you Romanian?’ And he said ‘No, I’m English’,” said Fras.’

Things appear to have not improved in the nearly two years since the referendum. It is shocking that we have come to this, in a once reasonably tolerant country.

You can read more about the project at:

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