The spurious link between immigration and increased crime

In the era of Brexit attempts have repeatedly been made to associate recent immigrants with criminality; and despite all evidence to the contrary this slur continues.

(Photo above: Anthony Stansfeld, Thames valley Police and Crime Commissioner, reproduced with permission of the Oxford Mail).

Danny Dorling works at the University of Oxford. He was previously a professor at the University of Sheffield, and before then at Leeds. His earlier academic posts were in Newcastle, Bristol, and New Zealand. His most recent book, with Sally Tomlinson, is ‘Rule Britannia: Brexit and the end of Empire’.

Sally Tomlinson was born in Stockport. Her first primary school job was teaching children from the Caribbean and Asian subcontinent in Wolverhampton in the year Enoch Powell was making his anti-immigrant speeches. She has worked in universities in Warwick, Lancaster, Goldsmiths London and Oxford’.

On Saturday 22nd December 2018, three days before Christmas, the Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire – Thames Valley – Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Anthony Stansfeld, was reported to still be standing by his very recent allegation that that ‘foreign nationals’ were one of the reasons for increasing demand being placed upon Oxfordshire’s police officers in recent years . He had been quoted as claiming that “A significant amount of the more serious crime is now being committed by foreign national offenders.”

Local members of parliament reacted angrily. The Oxford West and Abingdon MP explained that “I am concerned that the PCC singling out foreign nationals as the perpetrators reeks of dog whistle politics and risks an increase in hate crimes to people from other nations who’ve made their home in our communities” The Oxford East MP used statistics to explain that the number of people from abroad committing crimes was actually declining, yet still Anthony Stansfeld (pictured above) would accept no criticism, simply claiming that “I tell the truth on these things.

So where does this particular version of the ‘truth’ come from? And how does it manage to resist so much good sense, statistical evidence, or warnings of the potential consequences of repeating such accusations which are often echoes of a much older prejudice?

Students of criminology could request interviews with the Thames Valley PCC to ask him where his views come from, but he may not know. Few of us make good judges of our own motivations, beliefs, and what lead to our particular prejudices developing in the first place. Fear and mistrust of others is common worldwide, especially of people who are seen as different. However, the reactions of the two members of parliament for the city of Oxford in this case helps to illustrate that there is also now a strong movement to counter such stereotyping, and that fight-back also has a long history.

There is no correlation between immigration rates and crime. Meticulous research recently revealed that Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment of people to be found anywhere in Europe. Wales is hardly a favoured destination for immigrants, unless you count English people moving there in retirement. Wales suffers from one of the lowest immigration rates in all of Europe. In 2014 less than 5% of its population were born abroad (see the map below). This is a rate of in-migration that is amongst the lowest of any country or region in Europe. Outside of London and Northern Ireland the rate of migration from abroad into much of the UK very low. It is a low rate of immigration into  a large home born population that is most comparable to that found in many Eastern European countries. Eastern Europe also tends to receive few people born abroad, and is very like the North of England and Wales in that respect. The highest rate of immigration from abroad in Europe is found in Switzerland, a country not known for its high crime rates. Next most attractive is the Mediterranean coast of Spain, where a high proportion of the large number of immigrants were born in Britain (we often call them ‘expats’). After those two areas it is central west London that attracts the most people born elsewhere.

Immigrants: The proportion of people living in each region of Europe born in another country (2014)

dorlingtomlinson1

Key– in the darkest shaded areas over a fifth of people were born abroad, in the lightest areas less than one in twenty was. Areas in the map are drawn in proportion to their total populations.

Source, Figure 9.4 of Dorling, D. and Gietel-Basten, S. (2017) Why Demography Matters, Cambridge: Polity (reproduced with the kind permission of Benjamin Hennig)

We have recently written a book in which we try to explain that, people are apt to blame others when the relative position of their place in the world is falling, as it is currently in the Britain. There is a very real sense that things fall apart when empires crumble, and Britain remains, at the heart of what is a still contracting relic of a former world empire. The fear of outsiders in Britain has been stoked up in recent decades by newspapers whose owners want people to blame others, rather than the single political party they almost all support. Above all else they do not want the blame placed on the economic inequality by income that has been allowed to grow to become the worse, to have become the highest, in all of Europe. Some even try to blame immigrants for that inequality too, claiming that their presence lowers wages, as if people choose to be badly paid! But the highest median wages in Europe are found in cities on the mainland with high proportions of immigrants (the dark areas in the map above).

We all too easily fail to see what is happening when the rich take more and more leaving less for the rest, especially for the poorest. We are encouraged to imagine ogres that are not there. These ogres include ever rising numbers of apparently ‘criminal immigrants’, the fictional supposedly quick-breeding migrants who are taking ‘our’ homes, ‘our’ partners’ jobs, and claiming the best places in what should be ‘our’ children’s schools, and at the very same time apparently committing so much crime. However, the most common serious crime in the UK is speeding in a car. It is also by far the most deadly. The vast majority of car drivers who speed are not immigrants, although the Duke of Edinburgh, was recently involved in a collision and then found to be not wearing a seat belt, and he was born abroad. But the reason he choses not to wear a seat belt, or to drive as he does, is unlikely to be related to some early experience he had as a child living in Greece, France and Germany.

dorlingtomlinson2

Source, Figure 4.2 of Dorling, D. and Tomlinson, S. (2019) Ruel Britannia: From Brexit to the End of Empire, London: Biteback, Reproduced from the archive of the Daily Express (out of copyright).

Fear of immigrants tends to rise at times when economic fortunes are falling and people are questioning the political strength of their country; scapegoats are searched for. In 1899 the Second Boer war began in South Africa, a war in which the British suffered very bad losses . In 1901 there were racist campaigns against foreign immigrants in the Daily Express.  In 1903 George Edalji, a Midlands solicitor with a mixed race background, was found guilty and sentenced to seven years hard labour for crimes he did not commit. His sentence was reduced and he was later found to have not been guilty of the most serious crimes of which he had been accused. However, he was never found completely innocent despite his sister, Maud, campaigning to clear his name for nearly 60 years, right through to her death in 1961. His wrongful conviction did help bring about the establishment of the  Court of Criminal Appeal for England and Wales which first sat on May 15th 1908, 111 years ago this year. We can adapt, so when will we learn to stop saying ‘foreign national offenders’?

The crimes people are least likely to be found out for are the common crimes of the rich: driving dangerously, evading taxes, and fraud. The crimes which are most often publicised are the crimes most strongly associated with the poor. Recent immigrants from poor backgrounds are often labelled as racially or ethnically different, living in urban squalor that is apparently of their making (despite the fact that they have only just arrived and have had no time to make it). In contrast, recent immigrants who are wealthy are rarely labelled as living in unusually higher concentrations, but most do. The segregation of the rich away from other people’s neighbourhoods is the most concentrated spatial segregation of all. The rich tend not to mix.

In 2007 it was shown through analysis of the national census that the greatest concentration of overseas born children living in the UK were to be found around affluent Hyde Park in London. They had been born in the USA, their parents most likely worked in finance. In the next year came the great financial crash, for which no banker in the UK was jailed, British, American or of any other nationality.

A century earlier, in 1905, as we recount in our recently book (‘Rule Britannia’) the MP Major Evans-Gordon was instrumental in bringing in the Aliens Act which ‘…gave the Home Secretary overall responsibility for immigration and nationality matters. Ostensibly designed to prevent paupers and criminals from entering the country, one of its main objectives was to stop Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. Campaigning in favour of the law, Evans-Gordon said, ‘Not a day passes but English families are ruthlessly turned out to make room for foreign invaders,’ and ‘The rates are burdened with the education of thousands of foreign children.’ Problems with health, housing and education were all claimed, as now, to be caused by immigration. A little later, the league was absorbed by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.’

  [Note: This quote is an extract from Rule Britannia: From Brexit to the End of Empire, London: Biteback, published January 15th 2019, By Danny Dorling and Sally Tomlinson; and this article is mainly based on material brought together in that book]

dorlingtomlinson3

Source, Cover of Dorling, D. and Tomlinson, S. (2019) Rule Britannia: From Brexit to the End of Empire, London: Biteback [an image from the Empire marketing board]

It is good to see MPs today behaving so differently. Less than three years ago one of their number, Jo Cox, was murdered by a man shouting ‘Britain First’ as he killed her, and who gave his name in court on being charged with her murder as ‘Death to traitors. Freedom for Britain’. Since the referendum, racist hate crime has increased by 16 per cent across Britain, and peaked at a 58 per cent rise in the week following the vote.

Hate crime is done to immigrants, not by them. Three weeks after the Referendum a 16 year old Polish girl was found hanged at her school. She had been bullied and told that she ‘did not belong here’. In September 2016 a Polish man was killed in Essex, the Polish Ambassador visiting the scene and expressing shock at the rise of racist and xenophobic behaviour. Long before the Windrush scandal there had been a hostile environment to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers of all kinds, and a rise of far-right fascist groups in the UK. But many politicians are fighting back against the racism, more than they have ever done so before. Police forces around the country are now better informed and despite cuts, are better equipped to deal with the expectations put upon them. They do not need the spread of untruths by an ignorant Police and Crime Commissioner, or the creation of hostile environments by politicians who appear to harbour a deep dislike of people they see as not like them. It is time we called out the lie of ‘immigrant criminals’ once and for all, for what it is: racism.

Contacts

Danny Dorling, University of Oxford

Email: Danny.dorling@ouce.ox.ac.uk

www.danny.dorling.org

Twitter: @dannydorling

 

Sally Tomlinson, University of Oxford

Email: s@stomlinson.net

http://www.stomlinson.net/

 

Images: courtesy of the authors and permission given to use photograph of Anthony Stansfeld by the Oxford Mail (email Harrison Jones on 15th January 2019)

 

 

Why are hate crimes at record levels in the UK?

With hate crimes at record levels, we need to look beyond Brexit & recent terror attacks to fully understand exactly what is going on

ChrisAllen

Chris Allen is Associate Professor in Hate Studies at the University of Leicester. For almost two decades, he has been at the forefront of research into Islamophobic and extremist hate.

 

Levels of hate crime in the UK have been on an upward trajectory over the past few years. None more so than in 2016-17 when overall numbers increased by 29%: the largest annual increase since records began. During this same period of time, the number of racially and religiously-motivated hate crimes recorded reached record levels. As we enter National Hate Crime Awareness Week, this article offers an explanation for these previously unprecedented levels.

For the Government, recent annual increases are ‘likely’ due to improved awareness, better recording, and a greater willingness of victims to come forward. Given 2016-7’s record levels however, this explanation appears simplistic. While likely to result in a greater number of recorded crimes, there would have had to have been extremely significant improvements for that to have translated into a 29% overall increase. Improvements alone also fail to explain record levels of racially and religiously-motivated hate crimes.

As regards the latter, 2016-7 was notable given how certain events duly impacted the levels of hate crime recorded. The first of these was the Brexit referendum. While ‘Leave’ campaigners have since refuted claims that the referendum catalysed a sharp increase in the levels of hate crime in the days and weeks that followed, official data shows that in the 11 month period following the vote hate crimes surged by 23%. Interesting about this was the unprecedented targeting of white Eastern Europeans, anomalous in the British context where racially-motivated hate crime has historically targeted non-white minorities.

Also unique to 2016-7 were the number and scale of terror incidents in the UK. As the official data illustrated, following each incident – in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green – there was a sharp increase in the number of hate crimes recorded. Noting how this has been a pattern dating back to the 9/11 terror attacks, both research and third-party data from Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) confer legitimacy on the notion that these backlashes are undertaken on the basis of exacting ‘revenge’ against Muslims and their communities. It might be assumed that this would go some way to explaining the record levels of religiously-motivated hate crime.

While the Brexit referendum and number of terror incidents go some way to explaining the size of the increase in 2016-7, they fail to account for the year on year rises. To better understand this, it is necessary to take a broader perspective, one that considers how the socio-political landscape of the UK has changed and developed. For Poynting and Perry, this is important as socio-political landscapes can create climates which bestow ‘permission’ to hate and by consequence, enact hate crime. As they go on, this occurs when political actors and political mechanisms function to dichotomously demarcate ‘us’ from ‘them’: actively constructing ‘Others’ that are indeterminably and unequivocally oppositional, fear inducing and threatening.

This – according to Abrams and Travaglino – was evident in the discourses and rhetoric of Leave campaigners. Building on decades of various political actors routinely and repeatedly demarcating ‘immigrants’ as ‘Others’, Leave campaigners ratified the argument that had been premised many years beforehand that halting immigration – made possible by leaving the EU – would provide a ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’: nullifying the threat posed to ‘us’ by ‘them’. Allen and Young argue that the Brexit referendum achieved this by functioning as a political mechanism that conferred legitimacy on who could and who could not belong: politically and conceptually constructing an ‘us’ from ‘them’ in that it immediately functioned to demarcate who Britain could be ‘home’ for from those it could not. While the referendum was a one-off in this respect, it contributed towards – and fed into – the ongoing construction of a climate that was hospitable to being hateful and by consequence, enacting that hatefulness also.

2017’s unprecedented number of terror attacks can also be contextualized within that process of dichotomously demarcating ‘us’ from ‘them’ that in turn, feeds the construction of a climate that is permissible to hate. This can be seen in how for more than a decade in the UK – at least since the 7/7 terror attacks on the London public transport system in 2005 – political actors have repeatedly identified ‘Muslims’ and ‘Islam’ as problematic ‘Others’ both of which pose something of an existential threat to ‘our’ culture, values and way of life. Attributing all Muslims without differentiation the same attributes and capabilities, it is no surprise that Muslims have become repeat and indiscriminate victims of hate after every terror incident. As Poynting and Perry argue, the hospitable climate constructed by political actors and political mechanisms alike provide a ‘guide to action’ for the willing. For some at least, exacting ‘revenge’ on all and any Muslim can therefore be seen to be justified.

While 2016-7 was therefore notable, to fully understand why the levels of hate crime increased so significantly and why numbers continue to rise year on year it is necessary to look beyond those anomalous events to the socio-political landscape that has emerged and developed in the UK over the past decade or so. In doing so, it is possible to see how a hospitable climate has been established that not only bestows permission to hate but worryingly, permission to engage in hate crime: to justify the use of violence against those deemed to be ‘different’.

With this in mind, it is highly likely that hate crime numbers will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Noting the concerns of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services – the UK’s police watchdog – the UK’s formal exit from the EU in 2019 is likely to catalyse even more hate and by consequence, more hate crime. Add in the potential for further terror attacks, the reality of political actors further adopting nationalistic and jingoistic discourses of ‘us’ and ‘them’, as also the growing threat posed by the extreme right-wing and the future looks increasingly bleak as does the UK’s socio-political landscape.

 

For further links please see the website of the Centre for Hate Studies

 

 

Contact

Chris Allen, Associate Professor, Centre for Hate Studies, University of Leicester

Email: chris.allen@leicester.ac.uk

Twitter: @DrChrisAllen

Website: www.drchrisallen.uk

 

Copyright free images courtesy of author and Wikimedia Commons

‘Not in my backyard’: Brexit and the myths of transnational organised crime

Brexit will make for a weaker and more isolated Britain. That translates in more opportunities for profits and investments for transnational criminal networks – and will be a nightmare for national law enforcement agencies.

Brexit_Sergi

A Sergi

Anna Sergi is Lecturer in Criminology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminology at the University of Essex, UK. She is an International Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia and Chair of the Early Career Researchers Network of the British Society of Criminology.

 

Brexit is fast approaching and the language of security – with words like risk, threat and harm floating around in political discourses on justice and border control – helps confusing an already confused scenario of what exactly is Great Britain without the EU going to look like. Particularly, the language of security is made to echo immediacy and a sense of urgency in solving a problem that is going to affect all of us and with potentially alarming consequences. In the midst of political confusion in what Brexit will mean for the UK’s shores– especially in terms of agreements for cooperation and border control – the old adagio that sees migration as quintessential contribution to insecurity can easily resurface. In other words, the idea that – by closing our borders – we will keep out potential terrorists and transnational drug traffickers, is tempting and apparently intuitive. And yet it is a superficial and incorrect concept, as it is based on mistaken premises.

The assumptions on the links between terrorism – international terrorism – and migration from Islamic countries has been proven wrong by recent events: terror attacks in Paris and London in the past years have confirmed that perpetrators, even when they are of Islamic faiths, are usually born and bred in the country and radicalised at a later stage. Thus, even in the public domain, the fear and the following stigmatisation of Muslim migrants – current and future – seem today easier to dispute. This, however, is also the result of the visibility of terrorism, when events like the London Bridge attack of 3rd of June 2017 – which counted 8 deaths in total – dominated the news for weeks, offering the public all the details about the offenders’ past and actions. Such visibility, instead, doesn’t complement the news on much more frequent criminal activities, of serious, often transnational, and organised crime, such as drug or human trafficking, counterfeiting and/or smuggling. Organised criminal groups, however, not only benefit from this lack of visibility – as they arguably appreciate being under the radar – and will be benefitting from Brexit the most.

Indeed, myths can be debunked when it comes to organised crime and the impending exit of the UK from the European Union. The first myth relates to cross-border crime, and, as seen before, relies on the argument that with stricter border control and isolation we can disrupt trafficking and smuggling activities. This could be partially true if we were in a situation where trafficking and smuggling only happened because of the porosity of borders. This however is not true, as organised crime activities are heavily dependent, amongst other things, on market rules of offer and demand. Therefore the border – and the overcoming of border controls – is factored in the business risk. This is why isolation and increased border controls only make the business risk grow – by making it more difficult to cross the border unchecked – and the cost of an increased business risk are not born by the traffickers/smugglers, but by the clients or the victims. In other words, in a cocaine trafficking scenario, cocaine will end up costing more on the streets, because traffickers have to match the increased risk of shipping it into an isolated country, where, however, demand is not likely to decline. Learning from the experience in other countries – namely Australia for example – an option to avoid the inflation of drug costs on the street will be shipping lower quality drugs as well or developing drugs locally produced. In all accounts, however, the increased business risk paired with the usual demands leads to the possibility to increase profits: if cocaine is going to be more expensive in the UK, but demand is not falling, then the UK will become an attractive place to do business. In this sense, Brexit will not only not decrease the availability of (transnationally-shipped) drug, but will also increase profits for organised crime groups. Great Britain needs to be able to work with partners towards international cooperation in policing – which Brexit also threatens – in order to understand how criminal networks work across global routes and how best to intervene to disrupt them.

There is another myth as well which relies on the nature of contemporary organised crime, as a threat to national security in the form of transnational networks and not so much as a local issue. While it is obvious that some (organised) crimes are transnational, the nature of organised crime in Great Britain is certainly not just transnational, as, arguably, it has always been very local instead.  Organised crime networks in different parts of the UK can be both “heavy” organisations, structured and “organised”, but also “lighter” organisations, based on opportunistic network ties, occasional cooperation and easier involvement for willing participants. If we consider organised crime as a socio-behavioural model of doing crime, rooted in networks and (sub)cultural values, it follows that together with fighting networks that operate cross border, policies must consider how organised crime activities and actors are extremely linked to local environments, changes and structures and social, economic and cultural levels. This line of thought re-establishes organised crime as a very British problem, that isolation and border control are not likely to affect in the way certain political factions would like, i.e. by reducing it.

With concerns linked to the City of London becoming the ‘laundry of choice’ of different criminal groups, both local and foreign, political parties have repeatedly called for a review of regulations. With the advent of Brexit, and with the possible changes in transparency regulations now set out by the EU, this concern becomes even more real. When it comes to understanding and policing organised crime, together with many other threats the UK considers national security concerns, we must therefore conclude that Brexit would only make for a weaker and more isolated Britain. That translates in more opportunities for profit and investments for transnational criminal networks – and will be a nightmare for national law enforcement agencies.

Contact

Anna Sergi, Lecturer in Criminology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminology, University of Essex –  asergi@essex.ac.uk@annasergi
https://www.essex.ac.uk/people/sergi58502/anna-sergi

Copyright free images: from author