People are more compassionate than our politicians think

Photograph by Alex Treves

If you follow the popular media, you might conclude that there is a massive public outcry against refugees seeking asylum in the UK. Some politicians’ words reflect this assumption, racketing up the volume.

The irony is that just as the British government restricts who can claim refuge in the UK, public opinion has shifted in a more tolerant and humane direction. And we are not just talking about the doughty individuals who worked so hard to cancel this week’s planned flight taking refugees to Rwanda, including protestors in streets and fields and outside Home Office buildings, those who ran phone and social media campaigns targeting airlines, and lawyers challenging the plans in the courts.

Recent polling by IPSOS shows that immigration does not even feature in the top ten issues concerning voters. (In case you are interested, those questioned by the pollsters mentioned, in order of priority, inflation, the economy, foreign policy/defence, poverty/inequality, the environment, the NHS, lack of trust in politicians, the cost of petrol and fuel, housing, Covid and Brexit ahead of immigration).
In a poll conducted before Russia invaded Ukraine, the majority of people interviewed felt sympathy for migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats. (Strongly sympathetic = 24%; fairly sympathetic = 31%; not much sympathy = 21% and no sympathy = 18%).
Since then, the massive exodus from Ukraine is believed to have increased public awareness of the plight of people who are forced to flee conflict. When the poll was conducted (just before the war erupted), 40% said we should take more people fleeing persecution and war, while 32% said they approved of the status quo, with 10% saying the UK should take fewer refugees, and 5% wanting no immigrants.
There has also been a shift in how the public views immigrants who are already in the UK. Ten years ago, polling found a majority (55%) feared that immigrants were a drag on the economy, taking jobs from those born in Britain.

That sentiment has flipped, with 53% of people now acknowledging that the UK needs the skills and labour brought to the UK by immigrants.

If you want to hear more about the topics raised in this newsletter, please join us on Wednesday 22 June, 6-8pm at
The Wiener Holocaust Library, (29 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DP)
for a panel event considering, ‘What does it mean to welcome refugees?’.

The event is part of Refugee Week 2022, running from 20-26 June.

Register for free here.
Each day at Waging Peace, we meet Sudanese immigrants playing a useful role in UK society, making an effort to integrate and contribute. Many of them still have sentimental views of the virtues of British democracy, the rule of law, and freedom of speech – the values they wish were present in their place of birth.

None of our clients and friends made the hazardous journey to the UK for economic reasons: they were fleeing for their lives, and they remain consumed with worry about the fate of their families back in Sudan where insecurity takes lives each day.
Migration is not undertaken frivolously, and nor is adapting to a new culture straightforward, no matter how hard you try. That is why our work at Waging Peace is so vital: we provide friendship and practical support when new arrivals desperately need guidance and a compassionate lifeline.

Once people’s immediate needs are met, we introduce Sudanese migrants to networks and groups who have made the same journey. Through our efforts, we enable people to feel as if they belong and to start building a new life, while cherishing the culture that defines their identity.

Everyone benefits if we make it easier for new arrivals.
Please support our work.
Rebecca Tinsley
Waging Peace Founder & President
Copyright © 2022 Waging Peace, All rights reserved.

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