Racism lies at the heart of the vote to leave the EU, says leading asylum campaigner

The leader of the Scottish Refugee Policy Forum said the result was 'shocking' news for asylum seekers and refugees

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The Independent Online

Racism is to blame for Britain voting to leave the EU, a leading asylum campaigner has said.

Mubina Irfan, leader of the Scottish Refugee Policy Forum, said the Brexit vote will have a damaging effect on asylum seekers fleeing terror in other countries.

Her concerns echo those of other refugee charity groups, who said the referendum result has led to “uncertain, settling times” for foreigners in the UK.

Speaking to the Daily Record, Ms Irfan praised Scotland for doing the “right thing” by voting to remain in Europe. 

“In this situation, I find this racism is more on England’s side than on Scotland’s," she said.

Ms Irfan, who is also vice-chair of the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group, said: “I wanted us to stay in Europe. I think the result is shocking news for asylum seekers and refugees.” 

“Applying for asylum is a very tough process but now I would say it is going to be even more difficult. Many asylum seekers are able to appeal through European courts but now that’ll not happen.”

Originally from Pakistan, Ms Irfan was in the UK asylum system for three-and-a-half years.

When asked if she believed racism was responsible for the Leave campaign’s victory, she said: “I think it is, yes.”

“Many people here really don’t know about asylum seekers and refugees. They don’t have a clear view because they are not aware why they came to be in this country and how they have struggled.”

In a statement on Friday, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: “For far too long we have been spun a line on immigration that blames migrants for all of our ills. We are now in a position where migrants in the UK, particularly those from the EU, are scared for their future in the country they have made their home.” 

The Scottish Refugee Council added that many refugees are anxious about their status following Friday’s results.

Campaigns officer Pauline Diamond Salim said: “The mood among refugees we’ve spoken to is similar to that of many of us – anxiety about what lies ahead for all our families’ futures.

“People are looking for reassurance that their fundamental human rights to safety, equality and dignity will be protected in a UK that exists outside of the EU.”

She added: “The tone of the debate in parts of the UK was driven by fear and hate, especially the stoking of fears around immigration and the scapegoating of refugees we saw in that awful poster last week.

“Despite the result, the UK is still a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, the main international treaty that protects people in need of safety.

“We are in uncertain, unsettling times but values like compassion, empathy and solidarity are needed more than ever.”

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