Eighty years after the Battle of Cable Street in which the East End Jewish community and anti-fascists stopped Moseley’s Blackshirts marching through a migrant community, there are reports of a rise in anti-migrant feeling, abuse and attacks following the narrow pro-Brexit vote on 23 June.
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A large proportion of that Jewish community had been establishing itself in the area around Whitechapel, Bethnal Green and Aldgate since the 1880s – although there has been a Jewish presence there for a lot longer. Yet there were still some in this country who regarded them with hostility and as ‘alien’ more than 50 years later.
Websites tracking recent cases of abuse and worse from around the country carry some heart-rending first-hand tales of the wave of hostility that has been unleashed as a result of the restraint-free – some would say fact-free – ‘debate’ on immigration during the referendum campaign.
Despite a recent government announcement that it has ‘no plans’ to remove EU nationals ‘as a result of the referendum’ EU nationals could be forgiven for feeling insecure – unwelcome even. And it only takes a glance at some of the first-hand reports of racially motivated incidents to spot that this phenomenon isn’t limited to people from the EU. Anyone who looks or sounds foreign is fair game apparently. And it seems from the numbers of people reporting that they have been told to ‘go back home’ that there are some people who genuinely believe they were voting for a programme of repatriation of all ‘foreigners’.
While clever people in think-tanks are dreaming up new ways to tell the government how to ‘close the door’ or at least narrow the gap people can come through, those who are already here are now looking anxiously over their collective shoulders at neighbours and work colleagues wondering where the next remark is coming from. And now you can’t even escape it by closing your door because it’s apparently running rampant on social media.
While some political leaders, notably in Scotland and at regional and local level have sought to reassure EU nationals and to tell them they are welcome to stay in this their home, no government minister has felt able to come out and make similarly strong statements. Some parliamentarians are trying to get the government to come out and make a commitment to them, but those in power have simply ‘abstained’. Shame on them!
Feelings of insecurity are so palpable that charities and quangos are issuing factsheets to try to reassure people of their rights at work and about their options for staying here. Worried EU nationals are also reported to be flocking to law centres for legal advice.
And MRN’s recent Q&A session on what Brexit means for EU nationals was over-subscribed by 200%. So it has been necessary to film the event so that it can uploaded to our YouTube channel. MRN is also shortly to publish its own factsheet for EU nationals who want to carry on living and working here. Watch this space!
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This piece was reprinted by Migrant Tales with permission.