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Immigration rhetoric of BREXIT is fuelling xenophobia further isolating BAME women 

Sonal Sachdev Patel
CEO
GMSP Foundation
 
As the debate rages on about our future in Europe, and different camps speak about the effects on economics, healthcare and employment; not enough consideration has been given to the impact on vulnerable communities in our society, such as Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women.
The horrific murder of Jo Cox has shaken us all. A sickening and desperately sad waste of life. When a shocking incident like this happens it can cause us to press pause – to think about who we are and what we have became.  Sadly the picture is bleak. The Brexiteers have instilled a level of hostility towards the immigrant community, which is likely to trickle down to BAME women.
 
BAME women are already more vulnerable than their counterparts. To put this into context, 1 in 4 women in the UK face violence, with 1 in 3 BAME women experiencing it.[1]  In addition, women from BAME communities typically suffer abuse for 1.5 times longer before getting help than those who identify as White, British or Irish.[2]
The passion behind the immigration argument is fuelled by a dangerous force – emotion rather than facts. The leave campaign say that immigrants put pressure on public services, but in actual fact they pay more in taxes than they take out.  A survey of UK middle schoolers showed that 60% thought asylum seekers and immigrants are stealing jobs.[3] In reality, data has shown that unemployment has reduced at times of net immigration into the UK.[4]
Ayesha*[5] an immigrant living in London says, “People think immigrants are bad – that they create crime and steal jobs. I feel safer in my area where lots of my community lives. I would not like to use the bus in another area. People look at me suspiciously.” This trend is manifesting itself in real violence, with British Transport Police reporting race related hate crimes increasing by almost 40% in the last 5 years; that’s over 5 attacks a day.
Marai Larasi, Executive Director of Imkaan a network of BME women’s groups working to stop abuse of women and girls, says, “The leave campaign focuses on a narrative of immigration that breeds hate and hostility, which only further alienates women who have a right to be here or are seeking refuge here.” She also comments on the economic impact of BREXIT and the impact on the public purse, “If this does have a negative impact on our economy, how will this affect the most marginalised women? Will they be pushed further into isolation?”
The EU is not perfect, and there is certainly room for reform and improvement. However overall being in the EU provides a greater safety net for vulnerable communities such as BAME women that face violence. The Istanbul convention, for example, combats violence against women and makes reference to migrant and BAME women that may face specific forms of violence such as Female Genital Mutilation  (or cutting).
Moreover, if we do leave, the UK government has said that they may consider our own bill of human rights, which is likely to be a watered down version of what we have already.
Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters, a charity supporting BAME women says ”We feel the leave campaign is promoting prejudice, xenophobia and nationalism towards immigrant groups – many of which we support through our work at Southall Black Sisters. Some of the strongest case examples and laws protecting women have come out of the EU.” She adds, “We must remember that the world wars started in Europe – we came together to ensure democracy, stability and peace.”
In summary it is the rhetoric of the leave campaign that is promoting an environment of intolerance, inward focus and isolation, all of which further undermine BAME women facing abuse.

[1] Asian Women’s Resource Centre
[2] http://safelives.org.uk/practice_blog/supporting-bme-victims-%E2%80%93-what-data-shows
[3] Show Racism the Red Card based on 5945 surveys completed by children aged 10 to 16 between 2012 and 2014
[4] Professor John Salt of UCL’s Migration Research Unit (The Independent)
[5] *Name changed