UN experts who say UK guilty of ‘institutional racism’ to investigate discrimination

Black Lives Matter protest London racism - Guy Smallman/Getty Images
Black Lives Matter protest London racism – Guy Smallman/Getty Images

UN experts who claimed that Britain is guilty of “institutional racism”, and accused a government-commissioned race report of “normalising white supremacy”, will visit London next week to carry out an investigation into discrimination.

Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, will meet the five-strong team from the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent early next week.

It came a year after she rejected criticism of the report by the Government’s commission on race and ethnic disparities, chaired by Dr Tony Sewell, which found there was no evidence of institutional racism in the UK.

After the meeting, experts will travel around the country collecting evidence of racism, xenophobia and “Afrophobia”.

They have already asked for examples of “the most significant human rights violations that people of African descent in the UK experience” and “emblematic cases of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living in the UK”.

The group has also asked for examples of “racial bias and discrimination in the criminal justice system and law enforcement, including racial profiling and combating terrorism”.

Two years ago, the UN group lambasted Dr Sewell’s report, accusing it of “repackaging racist tropes and stereotypes as fact”.

Kemi Badenoch, equalities minister, racism, UN, politics - Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Kemi Badenoch, equalities minister, racism, UN, politics – Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Institutional racism, structural invisibility, and longstanding inequalities have disproportionately impacted people of African descent living in the UK,” they said.

On Friday night, a government source said: “These UN groups often turn up and criticise government policy, and not always entirely fairly.”

The working group has put out a call for evidence on “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance faced by people of African descent”.

It also asked for examples of “measures taken to prevent racial discrimination and protect victims of racism and hate crimes”, “mechanisms for the protection, integration and inclusion of migrants and refugees” and “responses to multiple forms of discrimination that specific groups of African descent may face and the efforts undertaken by the authorities to protect people of African descent from violations”.

The group said it will “examine in detail the situation of people of African descent in the country, to identify any problems and to make recommendations for how these could be resolved”.

It added: “The working group is required to look critically at the situation in the country and also identify good practices that could be replicated in other countries.”

Dr Tony Sewell race report UN visit - Rii Schroer for The Telegraph
Dr Tony Sewell race report UN visit – Rii Schroer for The Telegraph

In 2021, when the Sewell Report was published, the working group put out a statement claiming it effectively whitewashed the history of slavery and colonialism, and “further distorted and falsified historic facts”.

They said that the conclusions “may licence further racism, the promotion of negative racial stereotypes, and racial discrimination”.

They wrote: “In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent.”

The group said the report “cites dubious evidence to make claims that rationalise white supremacy by using the familiar arguments that have always justified racial hierarchy”.

They added: “This attempt to normalise white supremacy despite considerable research and evidence of institutional racism is an unfortunate sidestepping of the opportunity to acknowledge the atrocities of the past and the contributions of all in order to move forward.”

The experts said that the report omitted any recognition or analysis of institutional racism by the UN working group’s previous visit to the UK in 2012, and other studies.

“Without exception,” they said, “these reports have highlighted the damaging impact of institutional racism and deep-rooted inequities in areas such as health, education, employment, housing, stop-and-search practices and the criminal justice system in the UK.

“The reality is that people of African descent continue to experience poor economic, social and health outcomes at vastly disproportionate rates in the UK.

“While racial disparities may not always stem from racism or racial discrimination, there is also compelling evidence that the roots of these disparities lie in institutional racism and structural discrimination as they clearly do not reflect the preferences or priorities of the communities facing structural disadvantage.”

The group continued: “Instead, many racial disparities in the UK clearly reflect specific nodes of power and decision-making by employers, teachers, and others who dictate the opportunities and advantages available to people of African descent.

“Too often this decision-making reflects legacy mindsets of racial hierarchy. In other words, institutional racism, structural invisibility, and longstanding inequalities have disproportionately impacted people of African descent living in the UK.”

‘UK is a human rights champion’

The experts urged London to categorically reject the findings of the report, saying: “The distortion and falsification of these historic facts may license further racism, the promotion of negative racial stereotypes, and racial discrimination.”

At the time, Downing Street rejected the criticism. A spokesman for Boris Johnson, who was prime minister back then, told reporters: “Our view is that this report misrepresents the findings. We remain proud of the UK’s long history as a human rights champion and we encourage everyone to read the original report in full.’”

Asked whether Dr Sewell’s report would “normalise white supremacy”, the spokesman said: “Absolutely not. This report in no way condones racist behaviour and, in fact, it highlights that racism and inequality are still problems for our country.”

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