By ALIX CULBERTSON
First Published: Mar 16, 2016
MILLIONS of black and Asian voters could be swayed into voting for Britain to leave the European Union (EU) over feelings the bloc is “anti-black”.
Both black and Asian voters could sway the EU referendum vote
Race equality activists said they felt excluded from the Brexit debate and their votes are “up for grabs”, raising questions about the reliability of opinion polls which suggest the majority of ethnic minority and black voters would vote to stay in the EU.
There has been widespread anger in black and ethnic minority communities over increased migration from eastern Europe to the UK and support from neo-Nazis in Europe.
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For months we’ve been excluded from this debate, but it’s clear our votes are up for grabs and could make a difference.
Simon Woolley, of Operation Black Vote, which encourages more black people to vote, said neither the In or Out camps had targeted minority communities.
He said: “For months we’ve been excluded from this debate, but it’s clear our votes are up for grabs and could make a difference.”
The campaigner said two factors were encouraging anti-EU feeling.
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He said: “One is a longstanding feeling the European project has been anti-black – we’ve seen the emergence of far-right groups, some of them pretty nasty.
“Added to that is that many black people feel they’re competing for jobs with eastern Europeans.
“The two things come together in the feeling among some that the ‘EU is really not right for us’.”
Despite the views of hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority Britons, Mr Woolley believes staying in the EU will mean stronger racial equality and said claims European migrants were taking black people’s jobs were fanciful.
But, he admitted reaction to an article he wrote supporting the Remain campaign revealed many are supporting Brexit, with commenters saying mainland Europe is “far and away more racist, and viciously so, than the people of this island”.
Others described the EU as a “white male club”.
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Research by the Runnymede Trust, the race relations think tank, revealed many black and minority ethnic people are “ambivalent about the benefits of the EU”.
A report said: “They appear less likely to take advantage of free movement (very few move about for work, and arguably, feel less ‘shared identity’ with others in Europe).
“Some view Europe in explicitly ethnic or racial terms, identifying Fortress Europe as a way of keeping out non-white immigrants while allowing significant levels of European migration.”
And those originally from Commonwealth countries feel white European migrants do not face the same difficulties with the immigration system as they do.
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The report added: “Long-settled migrants often feel they have had a difficult time in Britain or at least following their initial arrival; they then may see or think that newer migrants have had better or easier experiences.”
Talking about the current debate over immigration, Omar Khan, Runneymede’s director, said: “People from ethnic minorities aren’t convinced of the benefits of EU membership.
“They are worried about the language of ‘us and them’. That sort of language has consequences.”
Not all ethnic minorities feel the same way though, with the Sikh Federation campaigning to remain in the EU following a survey which said 66 per cent of 1,000 voters wanted to stay.
But Gurinder Josan, of the Sikh Council, said his organisation would stay neutral as opinion was divided.
He said: “We’re an aspirational community with a lot of young professionals and many of this are very much in favour of staying gin.
“Those who are less supportive see EU migration cannot be stopped, but it gets harder to bring a spouse into the country or to get permission for relatives to attend a wedding.”
The Muslim Council of Britain called for an “informed debate that does not scapegoat minorities”.