A comprehensive review on race equality has warned the Conservative government’s approach risks falling short of international human rights obligations.
The UK government’s approach to race equality in England is at risk of failing international human rights commitments, the Runnymede Trust has claimed in a new report.
An independent think tank on race equality and race relations, Runnymede said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government “stands in clear breach” of numerous articles in the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – a treaty aimed at eradicating all forms of racial discrimination.
Compiled using evidence from more than 150 civil society organisations since 2016, the report shows that systemic racism remains a stark issue and that “legislation, institutional practices and society’s customs” are harming ethnic minority groups.
Runnymede argues that minorities still face inequalities across health, education, employment, criminal justice, immigration and politics.
Endorsed by 78 NGOs and race equality organisations, the report’s findings include that Black people are about eighteen times more likely to be searched than their white counterparts; minority children make up over half the child prison population; and minority groups with learning disabilities die younger than whites.
When it came to disparities within education, it was found that 14 percent of teachers were found to be non-white, while 96 percent of head teachers happened to be white.
Dr Halima Begum, CEO of the Runnymede Trust, said:
“From stop and search to inequalities in maternal health, lower levels of home ownership to constraints on pay and professional opportunities, this report provides further evidence that taking a colourblind approach to equality will not be the most effective way to achieve social mobility.”
The review cited a rise in hate crimes and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on marginalised communities as an example of the government’s failure to bridge the gap on racial equality, claiming that inequalities were worse today than they were when the previous report was submitted in 2016.
An independent report is submitted to the UN committee every four years alongside an equivalent report the government is required to submit to CERD. The government’s report due in April 2020 was not submitted because of the pandemic.
The report found Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Police Crime and Sentencing Bill “particularly alarming” in terms of the government’s immigration policy. The legislation will make it easier for authorities to deport immigrants for minor offences and increase stop and search powers that disproportionately impact ethnic communities.
Also critiqued was the government-commissioned Sewell report published in March, where No 10’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities dismissed evidence of institutional racism and that the “system is not deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.”
The government’s findings were criticised by Runnymede as “divisive and dishonest” and said that they “misrepresent the scale and complexity of the issues.” It added the government’s new approach to equality “may in fact worsen” outcomes for minorities.
Lord Simon Wolley, a former government adviser on race and director of Operation Black Vote, said the Sewell report represented a “lost opportunity to effectively tackle systemic racism in the UK”.
“This shadow report [by Runnymede Trust], in sharp contrast, offers a number of strategic recommendations which together present a sorely needed comprehensive race equality strategy fit for the 21st century.”
Among its recommendations include calls for urgent reforms across all policy areas based on comprehensive consultation with civil society organisations and minority communities.
The report took on added significance in the aftermath of the racial abuse black footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were subjected to following their missed penalties in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy.
It also follows the UN Special Rapporteur on racism’s condemnation of growing socio-economic exclusion of black and ethnic minority communities in the UK, urging the government to introduce concrete steps to make progress on racial equality “without delay”.