Amnesty: Government’s hostile attitude to migrants encourages racist attacks

The UK government's hostile and dehumanising attitude towards migrants has encouraged racist attacks against them, Amnesty warned today.

The human rights organisation said "racist thugs" felt they could now act with impunity, due to government policy and rhetoric on migration.

Writing for, Amnesty UK's refugee and migrant rights programme director, Steve Symonds, pointed to recent attacks against asylum seekers in Cardiff and Teesside, which took place after Home Office contractors singled them out with red wristbands and doors.

"Why are so many so quick to dismiss concerns over the red doors and wristbands?" Symonds wrote.

"The real answer lies in the current social and political environment. The government has deliberately decided to create what the home secretary calls a 'hostile environment' in both policy and rhetoric, and the targets for that hostility are – in broad terms – migrants, or those believed to be migrants."

Symonds suggested that cuts to legal protections for migrants, combined with comments, including those last year by the prime minister, in which he described refugees as a "swarm," had led to racists feeling they could now act with "impunity".

"When ministers – from the prime minister down – dehumanise refugees as 'swarms' and suggest that such people constitute a threat to our way of life, these are not merely passing aberrations.

"When victims of abuse are denied access to support and assistance in order to challenge that abuse, it's not a one-off case. In recent years the government has cut legal aid, withdrawn access to judicial review and ramped up the rhetoric against those seeking asylum in the UK.

"Faced with such a hostile environment, is it any wonder that racist thugs feel able to act with impunity while the victims continue to suffer in silence?"

In Teesside, asylum seekers had excrement smeared over their front doors earlier this month after Home Office contractors painted their front doors red.

Meanwhile in Cardiff, asylum seekers were also subjected to racist abuse on the street after being forced to wear red wristbands in order to obtain food from Home Office contractors.

Complaints about the wristbands were dismissed as "ridiculous" by local Conservative MP David Davies, earlier this week. Davies told LBC that asylum seekers should stop moaning about their treatment.