20 April 2008

Equality chief warns of race ‘cold war’

The head of Britain’s race relations watchdog says lack of control over immigration has led to a racial “cold war” among rival ethnic communities.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), believes that the failed policy risks inflaming racism among millions of young mothers and working professionals.

In an address to mark the 40th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s infamous “rivers of blood” speech in which Powell warned of apocalyptic social consequences if the rising tide of immigration were not halted, Phillips will say that the predictions have not come true. But he will warn that mass immigration has caused a different form of “war” that is just as worrying.

“Powell predicted ‘hot’ conflict and violence. However, we have seen the emergence of a kind of cold war in some parts of the country, where very separate communities exist side by side . . . with poor communication across racial or religious lines,” Phillips will say.

“In essence, Powell so discredited any talk of planning or control that it gave rise to a migration policy in which government knew too little about what was going on. Ironically, Powellism and the weakening of control it engendered may have led Britain to admitting more immigrants than fewer.”

Phillips will also warn ministers that they are playing into the hands of antiimmigrant parties such as the British National party by failing to respond to justified concerns among large sections of the “settled” population about the impact of mass immigration on their daily lives.

In a speech - to be delivered in the same Birmingham hotel where Powell polarised the public debate on race in 1968 - Phillips will say: “For every professional woman who is able to go out to work because she has a Polish nanny, there is a young mother who watches her child struggle in a classroom where a harassed teacher faces too many children with too many languages between them.

“Wanting a better deal for her child doesn’t make her antiimmigrant. But if we can’t find a better answer to her despair then she soon will be.

“For every boss whose bacon is saved by the importation of skilled IT professionals or crafts-people or health professionals, there are a thousand people who wonder every morning why they have to put up with the misery of a packed railway carriage or bus - if they can get on in the first place. Wanting an infrastructure that doesn’t make getting to work daily hell doesn’t make someone a natural voter for an antiimmigrant party. But it soon will.”

In a wide-ranging interview ahead of his speech, Phillips emphasised that he did not believe that too many immigrants had come to Britain. But he wanted to highlight that mismanaged policy had raised fears in the resident population about the impact of so many migrants on their daily lives.

Britain is probably the most tolerant country in Europe, he is expected to say. But the legacy of Powell and a “lack of control” over immigration policy by governments of both parties meant that it has gained an unfair reputation as one of the most xeno-phobic.

“It always seems like we’re a country that hates foreign people,” he said in the interview. He said this false image - which he described as a “calumny” - alienated highly qualified and well trained foreign migrants.

“My fear is that because we’ve been gripped [by this image] for 40 years . . . then we are going to miss the boat. Why would immigrants come to Britain if we behave as if we don’t want them?”

Powell’s notorious comments had the effect of making immigration a subject to be avoided by mainstream political parties for fear of being branded racists.

In his speech Phillips will lay out a programme for managed migration and will say: People should not be intimidated from making legitimate criticism of ethnic minorities.

Women should be treated equally and children properly protected in all communities. “Fair treatment” should not be reserved for ethnic minorities. “We need to do more for young white men who are having to compete with clever Polish graduates,” he will say.

Ministers should actively manage the geographical balance of migration. More migrants should be encouraged to settle in Scotland.

The EHRC is today also publishing an interactive map which reflects the racial diversity of 30 British cities.

Sunday Times

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