Integrated Communities: A HOPE not hate response

Rosie Carter - 05 06 18

Our submission to the government’s consultation on its Integrated Communities Strategy green paper draws on our Fear and HOPE reports, our most recent research on attitudes to integration, our community work in Bradford, and our National Conversation on Immigration, an extensive public engagement in 60 towns and cities in the UK over the last 18 months.

You can read our response to the Integrated Communities Green paper here.

Issues around integration are some of the major challenges facing the social fabric of this nation. Our research shows that anxieties about modern Britain have increasingly focussed on integration, with widespread pessimism about multiculturalism’s success. With perceptions that integration is failing, coupled with a rapidly changing population, there is no issue that is more important for society to get right.

HOPE not hate welcomes the Government’s Green Paper, a landmark in recognising the importance of integration for our communities. We support the paper’s move towards a two-way-street definition of integration based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities. We particularly appreciate the recognition that integration is more than a duty for newly arrived migrants, but is about whole communities and mutual accommodation.

The paper outlines a number of positive initiatives and policy proposals to support newly arrived migrants to integrate, and improve communities’ ability to adapt to migration: boosting migrants’ English language skills; mitigating residential segregation; increasing economic opportunity; and challenge practices that can hinder integration and equal rights.

Explicitly mentioning far right extremism as well as discrimination as barriers to integration, drawing on the Ethnicity Facts and Figures data released in 2017, is a welcome move. A recognition of the importance of local difference and the need for tailored local responses chimes with our findings from the National Conversation on Immigration. Overall, it is an encouraging move towards a much-needed broadened sense of integration.

At the same time, we believe the Government should be more confident in its approach.

Our research has highlighted a gap between perceptions and realities of integration in Britain. The British public remains pessimistic about the state of multiculturalism and integration, and fears it will get worse. 41% believe that Britain’s multicultural society isn’t working and different communities generally live separate lives. An astonishing 40% of people thought Enoch Powell’s grim predictions of conflict between communities have come to pass, compared to 41% who believe they have not.

Community relations are not without issues, but this pessimism sits at odds with reality. On the whole people feel happy in their communities, well integrated, and mix well with people of different ethnic backgrounds to themselves. We should celebrate the successes of Britain’s diverse communities, while asking why this optimism is so lacking from the public mood, as well as in political and policy responses to integration.

We welcome the green paper’s approach in addressing issues specific to particular places through tailored local plans and interventions. But our research has also shown disconnect between local views and national views on integration. While tailored local plans and interventions are important, these can only be effective alongside a confident national narrative and robust national interventions.

Getting integration right will require an integrated approach that combines responses to localised issues with addressing the drivers of anxiety at the national level. This will require strong leadership. Tackling the disconnect between local views and national views on integration, as highlighted in our research, demands challenging economic isolation, a confident national narrative as well as targeted local interventions.

Integration is not just about minorities and migrants, it is a socioeconomic issue which affects everyone. Our research has consistently shown links between economic pessimism and hostile attitudes towards others which pose further barriers to an integrated society. If economics continue to be a central driver of negative attitudes towards others, no amount of alternative narratives, community work to build resilience or integration initiatives will be able to counter the tensions and fears exposed in our polling unless we also take economic equality seriously.

Solutions need to address broad economic inequalities across the UK, as well as tackling barriers such as discrimination which holds BAME individuals from finding work that meets their skills and abilities.

Challenging residential segregation demands more than targeting areas where there are large proportions of migrants and ethnic minorities; it should also be acknowledged that often these areas are diverse. We also need to engage white Britons while white British people are most likely to live in ethnically homogenous communities. The 2016 British integration survey showed white British citizens to be the least integrated group.

The paper explicitly mentions both Islamist and far-right extremists pushing an agenda which asserts that being Muslim is incompatible with British values and our way of life. We wish to highlight how widely this view is held. In our most recent YouGov poll of over 5,000 people conducted in January 2018, just 33% of people felt that Islam and British culture were generally compatible, compared to 37% who felt they were not.

We believe that the Government could do more to address anti-Muslim prejudice, not only through initiatives to tackle extremism, but through its broader approach. A dominant narrative that conflates a failure of integration with violent extremism threads through the Government’s current approach, including the new Commission for Countering Extremism.

By conflating asserting British values over religiously and culturally conservative values with challenging extremism and terrorism, it is mixing two quite different issues. By focusing almost exclusively on the dangers of Islam it risks alienating the Muslim community whilst simultaneously reinforcing the widely held public view that Islam is incompatible with a British way of life.

Successful integration, where opportunities are accessible to all, is essential to ensure the welfare of everyone in society. Getting integration right is a step towards challenging hate in our communities.

HOPE not hate is launching a new Integration initiative to challenge the growing perception that integration is failing and a concerted right wing narrative that multiculturalism cannot succeed because of the inherent incompatibility of Islam with western culture, which is becoming increasingly mainstream.

For more on our new integration project, contact [email protected]


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