UN report accusing Britain of ‘structural, institutional and systemic’ racism rejected by Government

UN logo, New York
UN logo, New York

The Government has rejected a report by UN inspectors which found that racism in Britain is “structural, institutional and systemic”.

Following a two-week long visit, the UN’s working group of experts on people of African descent said they had concerns about “racial disparities” in the criminal justice system and the “dehumanising nature” of stop and search.

They said people of African descent were “victimised”, suffered “trauma” and have “no assurance of effective redress” from the authorities.

The inspectors said a decade of austerity measures in the UK had exacerbated racism in the country.

On Friday, a government spokesman said they “strongly reject” most of the findings in the group’s interim report, accusing the inspectors of “wrongly viewing people of African descent as a single homogenous group”.

They said the group had failed to look at all possible causes of disparities, not just race.

'Racial disparities in the criminal justice system'

The five-strong group, headed by Catherine Namakula, from Uganda, visited the UK this month to consider the extent of racism and “Afrophobia”.

They held a meeting with Kemi Badenoch, the Equalities Minister, who defended Britain’s record.

On Friday, at the end of their visit, the group said that people of African descent in the UK continue to encounter racial discrimination and erosion of their fundamental rights.

“We have serious concerns about impunity and the failure to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system, deaths in police custody, ‘joint enterprise’ convictions and the dehumanising nature of the stop and [strip] search,” they said.

The experts wrote about the “trauma” felt by people of African descent who were suffering racial discrimination and injustice in the UK.

“A woman of African descent we met during our visit lamented, ‘will this ever end?’” they said.

The group concluded that 10 years of austerity measures in the UK had exacerbated racism, racial discrimination and other intolerance people of African descent encounter, which had an adverse impact on their fundamental rights.

'No assurance of effective redress'

“From the perspective of people of African descent, racism in the UK is structural, institutional and systemic,” they said.

They concluded that for people of African descent, their experience with state and public institutions, the private sector and society was that it perpetuated racial hierarchies.

“Racialised acts targeting people of African descent have remained steadfast, and the experience is similar across different parts of the UK,” the group said. “They are victimised and have no assurance of effective redress from authorities or the justice system.”

Chairman Ms Namakula said: “Streamlining accessible, independent and effective complaint mechanisms to address racism, ensuring police accountability, fair trial guarantees for all persons, and redress to all persons affected by the Windrush scandal are imperative.

“Austerity to the peril of fundamental rights is a costly undertaking for the UK.”

'Superficial analysis of complex issues'

A spokesman for the UK Government said: “We strongly reject most of these findings as they wrongly view people of African descent as a single homogeneous group and present a superficial analysis of complex issues that fails to look at all possible causes of disparities, not just race.

“We are proud that the UK is an open, tolerant and welcoming country but this hard-earned global reputation is not properly reflected in this report. We are not complacent and recognise some people experience racism in Britain, but we are very clear this has no place in our society and must be rooted out.

“The UK Government has made great strides in addressing racial and ethnic disparities, most recently with our ground-breaking Inclusive Britain strategy, which is focused on closing outcome gaps between people from different ethnic backgrounds.

“Instead of sowing division we must celebrate the fact that this country strives to give everybody, from every community, in every corner of the UK, the opportunity to thrive and succeed.”