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Government breaching human rights commitments under UN racism treaty, report warns

Dr Halima Begum, Runnymede Trust chief executive said race has become a ‘needlessly fractious issue in the national discourse’

Joe Middleton
Wednesday 14 July 2021 01:54 BST
The new report from the Runnymede Trust comes as a number of England players, including Marcus Rashford, suffered racial abuse after the Euro 2020 final against Italy
The new report from the Runnymede Trust comes as a number of England players, including Marcus Rashford, suffered racial abuse after the Euro 2020 final against Italy (PA)

The government is in breach of a UN treaty designed to eradicate racial discrimination, a new report has warned.

Research by the Runnymede Trust said that minority ethnic groups face sustained disparities across health, the criminal justice system, education, employment and immigration in England.

The authors write that they believe the government’s new approach to equalities will fail to improve these outcomes “and may in fact worsen them”.

The report from the race equality think-tank added that the government is in breach of numerous articles of the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The government is required to submit regular reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which monitors adherence to the treaty, but did not submit one in April 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

The latest report, produced by the Runnymede Trust following an Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) tender, was drafted with evidence from more than 100 civil society groups.

Its publication comes amid condemnation from the Prime Minister, Duke of Cambridge and others over the tide of racist abuse directed at black football players following England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final against Italy on Sunday.

The report from the Runnymede Trust also questions findings from the UK’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred) earlier this year, which concluded that the system is no longer “deliberately rigged” against ethnic minorities in Britain.

They argue that Cred’s conclusion “misrepresents the scale and complexity of the issues” and starkly contrasts with the evidence received for the current report.

This evidence suggests racial inequality has worsened in some areas since the last shadow report was published in 2016, the report finds.

It says it is “particularly alarmed” over the Government’s Electoral Integrity Bill, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the new plan for immigration.

It believes the Government’s immigration measures “stand in clear breach of ICERD” and the new Immigration Bill could pose a “significant threat” to ethnic minorities’ rights.

Senior policy officer Alba Kapoor said areas of concern include disproportionality in the criminal justice system, health inequalities, and a rise in hate crime.

She said: “There are very clear signs that things are much worse in certain areas than they were before, and also upcoming legislative choices that are being put forward... have real implications in each of these areas in terms of the rights of black and minority ethnic groups.”

Dr Halima Begum, Runnymede Trust chief executive, said progress has been made, citing the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to ethnic minority groups and efforts to address the Windrush scandal.

She added: “But race has become a needlessly fractious issue in the national discourse, and many members of our black and minority ethnic communities continue to experience stark disproportionate outcomes in their life chances.

“From stop and search to inequalities in maternal health, lower levels of home ownership to constraints on pay and professional opportunities, this report provides further evidence that taking a colourblind approach to equality will not be the most effective way to achieve social mobility.”

The report is calling for the government to ensure its laws and policies fully comply with the ICERD’s definition of discrimination, and urgently implement a strategy to advance race equality.

Other recommendations include engaging with social media platforms to tackle the incitement of racial hatred online, and ensuring effective systems for reporting hate crime and recording data.

A Cred spokesman said it is reaffirming its call for the Government to deliver its recommendations following the “tragic events” of the last week.

He said: “We stand in solidarity with those black English footballers who received vile racist abuse after doing us all proud.

“We know from our own experiences as commissioners both before and after our report was published what it is like to be singled out and abused online because of your race. There must be no safe space for racists.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have made significant progress and in fact have gone far beyond our commitments to the ICERD since our last report in 2015 and will provide an update in due course.

“The Runnymede Trust’s shadow report contains many errors and is too simplistic in saying that structural or systemic racism is driving all the disparities outlined in their report.

“We would urge them to work with the government and carefully consider the recommendations in the report from the Commission on Race and Ethic Disparities. The government will be providing a response to these recommendations which will act as our action plan for tackling inequality.”

Additional reporting by PA

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