Brexit, the EU and Racism

SACC Statement, 14 February 2017

SACC calls for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK to be protected.

We oppose any measures that reduce people’s freedom of movement in the EU or globally. And we call for the UK’s asylum system to be reformed so that it ceases to obstruct people trying to exercise their internationally recognised right to seek refuge.

The EU referendum and the Brexit process have been driven mainly by the agenda of UKIP and the Tory right. The House of Commons vote against an amendment to the Brexit Bill that would have protected the rights of EU citizens living in the UK is deeply disappointing. But the EU is no ally of anti-racists.

Draconian EU border policies led to the death in 2016 of over 5000 people who were trying to cross the Mediterranean to safety. This is a crime against humanity.

SACC has no collective view on whether it would be better for the UK, or Scotland, to stay in the UK or leave. But we stand with all those who want to fight, in the EU or not, for stronger protection for our human rights and a warmer welcome for migrants and refugees.

Islamophobic and anti-immigrant attitudes are at least as prevalent in mainland Europe as in the US or the UK. In a recent survey by Chatham House of 10,000 people from 10 EU countries, 55% said that they agreed with the statement that “all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped”. 47% of people from the UK agreed with the statement. No separate figure for Scotland was provided. In every country but Spain, support for the statement was higher than in the UK, with the highest support in Poland and Austria.

Muslims have lived in Europe for centuries. Muslim-majority countries are Europe’s neighbours. People from those countries seek refuge in Europe to escape US/European  bombs or because of war and repression triggered by US and European military intervention in their region.

EU institutions will not protect us against Islamophobia and racism. The level of hostility indicated in the survey is not sustainable and contrasts with the heart-warming surges of solidarity with refugees that occur from time.

The political climate is volatile. Whether in or out of the EU, progressive Europeans must act urgently to reverse the growth of Islamophobia.

This includes reversing the islamophobic and repressive policies of many European governments, including the UK.

These policies fuel public suspicion of Muslims and limit Muslims’ capacity to campaign vigorously alongside others against war, repression and racism.