arts workers leave UK

Hostile Policies Push Arts Workers Out of UK

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The ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy is apparently dead, denounced by previous Home Secretary Sajid Javid in 2018. However, just one year on and migrants in the UK are still feeling the heat, prompting many to consider abandoning the country entirely according to one survey.

Former Prime Minister, Theresa May, justified the use of sowing hostility by claiming it would only be felt by ‘illegal’ immigrants. However, the effects were felt across immigrant and BME (black and minority ethnic) communities, regardless of legal status. The policy may no longer be in practice but the cultural effects, combined with the ever-looming threat of Brexit, has ensured the majority of migrants experience some form of antagonism in the UK.

Migrants in Culture, an organisation aiming to address concerns such as racial profiling and discrimination – and that seek to ‘organise justice in the hostile environment’ – carried out valuable research with over 600 participants. Both migrant and non-migrant workers were considered in the survey from across the UK and Northern Ireland.

Their collection of data from surveys showed that over 50% of migrant respondents had personally experienced higher levels of racial profiling or discrimination. They also suffered from emotional distress during their time working in the UK’s cultural sector.

arts workers leave UK
The UK’s migrant art community considers leaving the country due to hostility. [Image credit: JESHOOTS, Unsplash]

Since the launch of the ‘hostile environment’, correspondents claim to have faced ramped-up administrative checks while 38% said they had limited access to opportunities, 40% had increased financial concerns and 38% said they had their right to be in the UK questioned.

“…there’s power in numbers and this shows that people are not alone in their experience”

Xavier de Sousa, founder of Migrants in Culture

These concerns have led to 25% of the respondents confirming they are considering leaving the UK altogether due to the increased tensions and outright prejudice.

Migrants were defined in the research as an individual who had changed their country of residence to the UK including EU nationals, anyone with refugee status, individuals seeking asylum and others. The research included workers from across the arts, from theatre and dance to music and museums.

Migrants in Culture’s research highlights how the hostile immigration policy has specifically affected the cultural sector. One of its founders, Xavier de Sousa, said:

“Sometimes the migrant experience within this industry is a very singular one and you think: ‘Maybe this is me, maybe I’m not adequate for this’, but then you see these figures and you go: ‘Actually, no, this is a collective struggle.”

Further statistics detail that 90% of migrant respondents feel “fearful and angry” about the impact of the hostile environment policy on the cultural sector; 30% feel “disempowered” by the policy; 50% of respondents who identify as people of colour stated they had been targets of racial profiling because of the policy and 79% said there was “no support from their place of work or study to address the impact of the ‘hostile environment’ policy.”

Sousa added:

“In a way, it’s made me very angry to see these statistics, but at the same time, being a part of Migrants in Culture makes me feel very hopeful, because there’s power in numbers and this shows that people are not alone in their experience.’”

The organisation aims to hold a cultural summit in January 2020 to bring migrants in the UK together and to expand on ideas and concerns about rights, equality and progression.