Following the EU Referendum result last week, according to the National Police Chiefs Council, reports of hate crime and racist attacks in Britain have risen by 57%. Cardinal Vincent Nichols spoke of his concerns on the BBC Radio 4 World Tonight programme yesterday. Here are some of his comments:
Along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi and Muslim Leaders, I share a deep concern that in the last few days a fresh outbreak of xenophobic comment and hate activity has been addressed towards immigrants, many of whom have lived here for many years. These are unacceptable racist attitudes, which are not part of the society that we want to be and to build.
No Government in the last 10-12 years has been willing to address immigration, whilst community groups and churches have made concerted efforts to find a way for undocumented workers to have their position recognised, it was called “A Pathway to Citizenship”. However, no political party would take it on. There has been an unwillingness to face what has been an issue for many years in this country, that of people who are working, making a contribution, yet have no official status.
There are deep roots to this problem which have been brought to the fore by the uncertainty that we face and that gives rise to fear and often people’s reactions to fear is to turn on those who are “other”, those who seem to be “not one of us”, which is a terrible expression to use. We’re talking about people who have lived and worked here for 20, 30 years.
As a country, we benefit from people who come to work here and contribute, and we benefit from having good trade links across the world and certainly with our European neighbours.
When the debate became crystallised around the two themes of the economy and immigration, it became very confrontational, and caused fundamental distress and dismay, which overpowered everything else.
The question of immigration is real, there is no doubt, and that people get distressed, not so much when they see hardworking neighbours, but when they see people who would appear to be working the system to find the greatest benefit they can obtain.
His message to the immigrant community in this country was:
“Rely strongly on your friends, and don’t lose your nerve, nothing is going to change in the next two years in your status. We will always welcome people who want to make their homes here and contribute to its wellbeing. We are basically a generous people, don’t lose sight of that”.