‘Community cohesion in U.K. is under threat’

Research points to a significant exodus of white Britons from ethnically mixed areas like Leicester

Updated - December 02, 2016 01:04 pm IST

Published - November 03, 2016 02:02 am IST - LONDON:

Increased polarisation:  In Leicester, the city with the largest Indian population, the white population has drastically fallen. Picture shows Diwali celebrations in the city.

Increased polarisation: In Leicester, the city with the largest Indian population, the white population has drastically fallen. Picture shows Diwali celebrations in the city.

A significant exodus of the white British population from poorer, urban centres — those with large ethnic minority populations — risks stoking intolerance, prejudice and extremism, according to new research published on Wednesday.

“Segregation is increasing in a number of very particular respects in the U.K., especially the growing isolation of the white majority from minorities in urban zones,” noted the research paper by academics Ted Cantle, founder of the Institute of Community Cohesion and Eric Kaufmann, professor of politics at Birkbeck College, published in Open Democracy on Wednesday.

More segregation

The authors pointed to the “striking” pace of “under the radar” change, which has seen the white population in some areas more than halving between 1991 and 2011. (The period in which the last two censuses in the U.K. were carried out).

Among the areas with striking rates of change are Slough (where nearly 16 per cent of the population are ethnically Indian, according to the last census), Leicester (28 per cent), London and Birmingham.

In Leicester, for example, the city with the largest Indian population as a percentage, the white population had fallen from 60 to 45 per cent between 2001 and 2011, while in the London borough of Hounslow (19 per cent Indian) the white population had fallen from 56 to 38 per cent.

The analysis, based on census figures, goes against the grain of much research on diversity in the U.K., which has pointed to positive developments in the past decade. “Two things are happening — one is that some areas are becoming more diverse and there is more integration in those areas but at the same time there are other, poorer, more disadvantaged, urban areas where the polarisation of communities has been taking place,” Mr. Cantle told The Hindu . “Cohesion is at stake.” Areas that already had a low white population already saw that population fall more rapidly, pointing to a negative spiral.

Mr. Cantle’s research comes at a time of grave concern about the state of race relations in the U.K. in the wake of the Brexit vote. Evidence from the National Police Chiefs’ Council last month showed a significant increase in hate crime and community tensions, including at one point a 58 per cent increase in hate crime compared to the same period the year before.

“The more segregated and exclusive areas tend to be the ones more prone to intolerance and prejudice so we need to encourage more mixed communities. We know contact between communities does improve tolerance and dispels prejudice.

“The researchers are calling on the government to take account of the findings when it comes to public policy to prevent a further deterioration of community relations. We need to talk up mixed areas, and make sure people are aware of the benefits they bring,” says Mr. Cantle.

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