UK government must address Islamophobia, violence against asylum seekers

LONDON: The UK government must do more to address far-right Islamophobia and tackle violence against asylum seekers, charities have urged in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The open letter claims that the government has “failed to adequately address the dangers posed by Islamophobia and racism against vulnerable people seeking protection and racialised communities in the UK,” The Guardian reported.

It was penned by charities and rights groups including the Community Policy Form, Refugee Council and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

The letter added: “With government ministers continuing to promote incendiary language labeling asylum seekers with harmful stereotypes and painting them as unworthy of sanctuary, there must be accountability for their role in normalizing and tacitly endorsing the threats that asylum seekers now face.

“As such, the government must immediately disown such language and pledge to tackle far right rhetoric inciting hatred against minority groups.”

The letter’s warning comes amid the release of the Shawcross report into the government’s anti-extremism Prevent program.

The inquiry argued that the program had failed to focus on growing Islamist extremism, instead unduly targeting the far right.

However, the letter urges the government to reject the Shawcross report’s findings, arguing that they were based on “incomplete and skewed evidence to minimize the threat of the far right.”

The government must also clamp down on far-right violence against asylum-seekers, the letter warns, highlighting a recent incident in which demonstrators in the UK staged a protest outside a hotel that was housing new arrivals.

The protest in Knowsley descended into a riot, with several people arrested in the aftermath.

“The response to the violence and intimidation directed at refugees has highlighted the normalized far-right hatred in the UK,” the letter said.

The government must “outline a robust strategy to tackle far-right ideologies,” the letter added, warning that authority figures must “distance themselves from the statements of government ministers normalizing and mainstreaming far-right hatred against minority groups.”

Migrants’ Rights Network CEO Fizza Qureshi, who signed the letter, said: “The lack of acknowledgment about the role Islamophobia and racism played in the Knowsley riot is shocking but unfortunately unsurprising.

“At the Migrants’ Rights Network, we have been warning about the devastating impact hostile rhetoric and ideas can have on refugees and migrants for some time, and how it has emboldened the far right.

“Once again racism, orientalism and Islamophobia have been omitted from discussions on the far-right attack.

“Far-right extremism and hate crimes toward people of color and Muslims have been widespread for a number of years. So, we must publicly acknowledge the prejudice that drives attacks like these and prevent them from happening again.”