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Black, Asian & Minority-ethnic Women in the UK Creative Sector Feel Austerity the Most

Following Ms. E. Tendayi’s – the UN’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism – investigation in the UK, a report was released by the UN’s human right’s council. 

Tendayi’s investigation, which aimed to look into the presence of racism and xenophobia in the UK, shed light on the volume of racial discrimination and inequality which is still existent in most areas of British industry and public life. 

The report described how austerity measures and hostile policies had significantly impacted Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, and in particular, BAME women and children. 

Hostile practices

Theresa May first introduced the Hostile Environment policy while she was home secretary, in 2012. The purpose of this policy was to make living in the UK as unwelcoming and overwhelming as possible for “illegal immigrants”, so that they would eventually leave off their own accord. 

Hostile practices pushed landlords, employers and doctors across the country into acting as border-control staff, facing fines or punishment if they did not refuse their services to those without the proper documents. They were conscripted to deny services to such individuals, promoting racial profiling and the mass-discrimination of BAME communities. 

The Hostile Environment policy did see an end after the 2018 Windrush Scandal, where hundreds of Windrush-generation British nationals  — many of whom had been living and working in the UK their whole lives — were threatened and deported to their country of origin. 

Nonetheless, Tendayi found various examples of hostile practice still in effect in her investigation, much of which negatively impacted women and their families. 

As well as this, she argues that Brexit has also triggered racial discrimination and xenophobia, with racially and religiously charged hate crimes spiking in England and Wales after the referendum result and steadily increasing year-on-year. 

BAME children and families

According to a Race Disparity Audit, carried out by the Government in 2016, British children from BAME households were more likely to live in ongoing poverty than children from white households. Children of black and Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent were twice as likely to come from households of poor accommodation, which are categorized as “sub-standard” than white children.

According to the UN’s report, this situation has not changed. Tendayi found a defining difference between the treatment of white-British and BAME children in schools. Afro-Caribbean children were found to be three times more likely than white children to be excluded from their schools. And in many cases, these exclusions were either racially driven, or unjust. Equally, there has also been an increase in racist bullying in schools, with mostly BAME refugees being highly affected by this. 

BAME women

Remnants of hostile policies are not the only factors causing racial inequality in Britain. According to the UN report, austerity has hit the BAME community harder than any other, with women especially feeling cuts to public services and local budgets.

According to a report on the impact of Brexit spending on migrant women, issued by the Women’s Budget Group (WBG) earlier this year, cuts to local budgets have resulted in the closure of many women’s support networks and refuges. Most of those closed are smaller, community-led services, which run solely on volunteers and donations. As it happens, the vast majority of these cater to the needs of BAME women specifically, whereas the more established women’s charities cater to women as a collective. 

A spokesperson from the UN stated that “austerity hits women harder” than men, and BAME women are even more affected. The UN report found that BAME women are at a higher risk of domestic violence and racial discrimination and are therefore the most in need of support. 

However, Hostile Environment attitudes, these women now avoid reporting their situation to authorities, in fear of losing their UK Marriage Visa or refugee status as a result of being deported. Unfortunately, these fears have grounding; in December, a secret data-sharing arrangement was discovered by campaigners Liberty and Southhall Black Sisters. This arrangement encouraged police to share the details of domestic abuse victims and witnesses with immigration officials and resulted in the first-ever super-complaint being launched against the English and Welsh police forces.

Creative industries

A no-deal or ‘hard-deal’ Brexit is set to negatively impact almost every industry and sector in the UK. If free movement ends (as it is set to in both scenarios) healthcare, education, and engineering will suffer – to name a few. This is an issue which is being tackled by various Governmental bodies and think tanks, in an attempt to encourage Europeans to continue to take on roles in the UK after freedom of movement finishes.

However, one industry which is largely overlooked in discussions about post-Brexit strategies is the creative industry. Historically, free movement has been hugely beneficial to creatives, including creative women. 

Free movement has encouraged the easy exchange of not only people but also ideas. British and European art professionals – artists, dancers, writers, musicians – have been able to move between countries in the EU for events, auditions, rehearsals, and networking events. On top of this, they have been able to collaborate with one another in ways which would not be possible without free movement, if visa restrictions and costs had been in place. 

There is a growing concern for many creative professionals – and for creative BAME women in particular, who still only make up a fraction of the industry’s workforce – that Brexit could impact their creative ability. 

If free movement ends, restrictions will be introduced for British and European nationals who want to travel in and out of the UK to either work or attend relevant events. This would not only be restrictive but also costly. Individuals would have to pay for each visit or work stint, a fee which many cannot afford, particularly those who are already feeling the effects of austerity, which disproportionately includes the BAME community. 

BAME women are already vastly underrepresented in the creative sector. As well as this, they also struggle the most to get a platform to be creative in the first place; they are already at a disadvantage based on unequal and discriminative practices and structures in the UK. 

It is vital that these women are considered in all negotiations concerning cuts to austerity measures, Brexit spending, and policy. The Government must take the BAME community into consideration, and work to resolve all forms of racism, racial discrimination and racial inequalities for BAME women, both in and out of the creative sector.  

This article has been written by Luna Williams, a political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service (IAS). IAS is an organization made up of immigration solicitors, which offers legal aid support to domestic abuse victims and asylum seekers.

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