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)

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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.

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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]

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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)

 

 

Race Matters: A New Dialogue Between Criminology and Sociology

The symposium created much-needed energy and new connections between scholars working around race and crime.

Authors: Rod Earle, Alpa Parmar, and Coretta Phillips

“I wish my department meeting looked more like this”

This rueful but heartfelt observation by Dr Patrick Williams captures many of our intentions in organising Race Matters: A New Dialogue Between Criminology and Sociology at the LSE at the end of August 2018. We wanted to create a gathering of black and minority ethnic scholars active in criminology and the sociology of race to focus on how race and ethnicity generate not only differential experiences of criminal justice but also of criminology. To achieve this we, as organisers, opted for an invitation-only format that would allow us to focus attention on key issues and speakers, create a small participative environment and manage the prevailing white majority structures and tendencies of British criminology – by reversing them: minority ethnic presence was deliberately majoritised, prompting Patrick’s remark as he prepared to present his paper to a gathering of approximately 30 invited scholars.

Two papers opened the symposium. The first, by Professor Katheryn Russell-Brown, advanced and updated her call, in 1992, for the development of a Black Criminology. This criminology needed resources currently absent, neglected or suppressed in mainstream, white, criminology. These would draw from the humanities as much as the social sciences, refusing a binary fostered by the dominant scientific trends in US criminology. Katheryn insisted that Black arts and artists had shown themselves to be more adequate than criminology to the task of representing black lives and the injuries of American criminal justice. Black criminology was needed to widen the visions of justice that criminologist might pursue, and would be a criminology that valued the extent and range of minority ethnic perspectives.

Katheryn’s 1992 paper prompted Coretta Phillips and Ben Bowling’s 2003 call, some 10 years later in the British Journal of Criminology, for minority ethnic perspectives to be afforded greater recognition and support. Another fifteen years later, and with precious little evidence of change, her paper, with the other symposium organisers, Rod Earle and Alpa Parmar, called out to white criminology: ‘where has all the racism gone?’ The paper, like the organisational effort of the symposium itself, was prompted by a growing suspicion that British criminology lacks the theoretical, conceptual and motivational resources to explain the differentials referred to above, in criminal justice and in criminology that sees black people swept into police cells and prisons, kept out of universities and black academics off the curriculum. Strangely though, it seems that racism has disappeared from criminology’s agenda. The paper develops an analysis of the ‘disciplinary unconscious’ of criminology that allows (or worse, encourages) the erasure of race and racism from its business as an academic discipline. We pointed to the recurring absence of papers on race and racism in criminology conferences, journals and edited book collections, even as racial disproportionality in criminal justice escalates and intensifies. We identified tendencies in British criminology to highlight and theorise US experiences of race and racism at the expense of working with a narrative of British colonialism and the differentials generated by domestic criminal justice systems that have long outstripped those of the USA. As minority ethnic scholars addressing a roomful of other minority ethnic scholars Alpa and Coretta could also share and reflect on the continuing impacts of ‘everday racism’, the small injuries that perforate their academic lives and snag their careers with condescension, indifference and insults, in the knowledge their experiences were like, rather than unlike, most of those in the room.

The second and third keynote presentations were from Professor Shaun Gabbidon and Professor Karim Murji. Shaun began in the particularities of ‘shopping while black in the USA’ in a paper that explored shoplifting as a neglected object of criminological study, before telescoping out toward a sustained critique of surveillance techniques and technologies that smuggle racism through the back door of supposedly ‘race-neutral algorithms’. This is a term used and developed in Pamela Ugwudike’s paper about the ‘under-the-radar’ aspect of familiar racialized dynamics that are cloaked through the operation of new technologies. It was a theme featured in several papers, particularly those of Patrick Williams and Tara Young.

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Karim Murji’s paper focussed on the unique styles and insights of Stuart Hall. An established and legendary figure to many criminologists, Karim insisted that the measure of his reputation among criminologists rested on too narrow a reading of his extraordinarily diffuse scholarship. Karim traced and retrieved the sometimes hidden Hall and urged a wider and more critically engaged reading of his works, methods and style.

As one of the leading figures in the contemporary sociology of race the symposium was grateful to welcome Professor David Theo Goldberg for a keynote presentation, ‘On Racial Judgment’. Goldberg has been central to the resurgence of theorising around race, particularly criticising the habits of ‘post-racial’ perspectives that assert the declining significance of race and racism to social divisions. Rather than recognising a historical system of exploitation, these perspective focus on habits of prejudice and individual moral deficiencies marginal to social structures. The persistence of racial judgment, according to Goldberg, and its expansion from the formalities of criminal justice should be a warning to criminologists, and sociologists, that race retains its deadly vitality and is neglected at our peril.

Dr Suki Ali, acting as a particularly creative discussant to the unfortunately absent Professor Mary Bosworth convened a lively discussion around Mary’s paper (delivered by misbehaving technology) on ‘Race and Border Criminology’. The proceedings were also enlivened by Dr Martin Glyn’s delivery of his own ‘data verbalisation’ thesis. Mixing music, poetry and performance Martin urged participants to make their work more accessible to the black and minority ethnic communities that helped them produce it.

The final keynote, from Professor Chris Cunneen picked up and reinforced two recurring and contrasting themes in the symposium. The first of these is the increasing influence of digital technologies in covertly reproducing the dynamics of race and the functionality of racism. Drawing from research with Australia’s indigenous peoples, and particularly young men, Chris reported how policing and criminal justice agencies increasingly resorted to actuarial risk assessment technologies that reproduce discredited white racist schematics. Indigenous communities resist their pathologisation and a key feature of their resistance is their reliance on their arts and crafts to sustain themselves as communities, narrate their experience and express their resilience.

Closing the symposium with brief summary remarks Steve Garner and Omar Khan placed their emphasis on, respectively, the salience of whiteness, positionality and affect, and the way the weakness of criminological analysis of race and racism had serious policy implications.

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The symposium created much-needed energy and new connections between scholars working around race and crime. As organisers, we feel it lived up to its ambition to start a new dialogue between criminologists and sociologists of race, and bridged a gap that has widened alarmingly in recent years. Emerging from the symposium are plans to launch a BSC Race Matters network and promote a Black Criminology Month to run alongside Black History Month every October. Papers from the symposium will, we hope, be included in a Special Issue of a leading criminology journal before too long. In the meantime, if you are interested in supporting the formation of a Race Matters network and enlarging the conversation around race and racism in criminology please contact us.

 

Contact

Rod Earle, The Open University (r.earle@open.ac.uk )

Alpa Parmar, Oxford University (alpa.parmar@crim.ox.ac.uk )

Coretta Phillips, London School of Economics. (coretta.phillips@lse.ac.uk )

Images: courtesy of the author