UK

Austerity and immigration rules concern UN racism official

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Media captionBrexit fosters 'growing intolerance', says UN

The UK's ethnic minorities have been "disproportionately" affected by the government's austerity and immigration policies, a UN inspector has said.

Tendayi Achiume, the Special Rapporteur on Racism, criticised the "hostile environment" brought in by Theresa May when she was home secretary to clamp down on illegal immigrants.

The rapporteur also expressed concern at the effect of the Brexit debate.

But she said UK racial equality laws had shown achievements in key areas.

The government said it was determined to tackle "ethnic disparities".

Ms Achiume's comments are contained in an end of mission statement following her two week fact-finding mission to the UK.

But former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith criticised the visit. "These visits are completely pointless," he told the Times.

"They are politically motivated, they are inspired by the extreme left, and the idea is to kick the UK."

Ms Achiume is due to publish a full report in June 2019.

The first day of her visit coincided with Amber Rudd's resignation as home secretary following the Windrush scandal.

Ms Achiume said the Windrush Generation faced "gross human rights violations and indignities" as a result of government policies.

Who is Tendayi Achiume?

  • Born in Zambia and raised in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana
  • She took up the role of special rapporteur at the UN in November 2017. She reports on racism, xenophobia and intolerance after undertaking fact-finding country visits
  • She is a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles
  • She has represented refugees and migrants at Lawyers for Human Rights in Johannesburg

She recommended the government repeal the sections of the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Act which require landlords and employers to check a person's right to be in the UK.

It was "no surprise that a policy that ostensibly seeks to target only irregular immigrants is destroying the lives and livelihoods of racial and ethnic minority communities more broadly", she said.

Ms Achiume said that while the UK embraced a "substantive vision of racial equality, and explicitly prohibited both direct and indirect forms of racial discrimination" there was "much to do especially in the arena of addressing structural forms of racial discrimination and inequality".

'Worthy of emulation'

Ms Achiume also raised concerns over the government's anti-terrorism Prevent programme, and hate crimes following the Brexit vote.

She said: "The discourses on racial equality before, during and after the 2016 referendum, as well as the policies and practices upon which the Brexit debate has conferred legitimacy, raise serious issues at the core of my mandate."

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Image caption The prime minister's racial disparity audit won praise

Speaking at a news conference to mark the end of her trip, Ms Achiume also said she was "shocked" to find young black men were "over-represented" in police stop-and-searches, and in the prison system.

She added: "Unsurprisingly, austerity has had especially pronounced inter-sectional consequences, making women of colour the worst affected."

However, the prime minister's Racial Disparity Audit was described by Ms Achiume as a "remarkable step in transforming racial equality into reality" that is "worthy of emulation by governments all over the world".

A website set up by the government highlights the disparities in educational attainment, health, employment and treatment by police and courts between ethnicities and Mrs May has promised to confront the "uncomfortable truths" exposed by it.

A government spokeswoman said: "We note that the special rapporteur commended UK legislation and policy to tackle direct and indirect racial discrimination...

"We have made great progress, but the prime minister is clear that if there is no rational explanation for ethnic disparities, then we - as a society - must take action to change them. That is precisely what we will do."

The government added it was wrong to term Home Office immigration policy as a "hostile environment".

But she said in light of the concerns raised by the Windrush scandal, rules were being reviewed to ensure that people lawfully in the UK are not disadvantaged by measures in place to tackle illegal migration.

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