Is it racist to fear immigration?

We asked the people


On Friday morning, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury said it was reasonable and legitimate for people for people to fear Europe’s “colossal crisis” of migration.

Welby said fears about migration ought not be dismissed but communities can be “much more absorbent” than they get credit for and called for organisation at a “macro level” to address the crisis.

We asked people in London whether fears over migration were legitimate or whether they had racist overtones.

Harry, 19

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“Well it depends on the context obviously. It’s not racist to talk about immigration but the way some people do really is. Nigel Farage uses migrants as scapegoats, playing off people’s fears rather than blaming the people who actually fucked us, like the mega rich bankers did in 2008. Likewise if you look at the way Donald Trump talks about migrants it could be Germany in the 1930s.”

Rosie, 22 and Shermane, 22

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Rosie: “I’m American and there’s a huge divide between people who like Trump and the people who support him, expressing a sentiment that’s racist, and people who are more sensible, who ask for a comprehensive reform of immigration without talking about deporting millions of people or building a giant wall.”

Luke, 18

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“Yeah, I think the way it’s discussed can be racist. It does depend on context. But when individual groups are singled out it seems like it is. I’m disgusted by people like Trump. Can’t he see that we’re all human beings? There’s no problem we wouldn’t be able to solve if we talked to each other. I want to see people respect the differences between cultures, not hate on them.”

Rupert, 28 and Vonda, 26

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Rupert: “For the most part I would say it’s racist. If you look at the strategy for Brexit, it’s incredibly narrow-minded. It ignores the fact that for London especially, migration is one of the things that makes this city work, that makes it strong. Our problems aren’t going to be solved by cutting off immigration. It is depressing and disgusting that the Government only plans on letting in 20,000 refugees from Syria – you could fit far more in Bethnal Green alone.”

Harrison, 25 and Nishan, 23

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Harrison: “I don’t think the current debate is really racist at all. I think it’s up to you if you choose to get offended by shit people say. I’m not personally upset by it right now.”

Nishan: “Sometimes people have good reasons for wanting to stop migration but with the current Syria crisis I think a lot of the reasons people have for fearing refugees come down to prejudice.”

Karl, 19

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“I’m German and I think the EU states need to work together to solve the current crisis. I don’t think the UK is doing a bad job at all. Compare it with Eastern European countries like Slovakia, which really is racist: telling migrants they can’t stay, purely based on their religion and their race. Germany has taken many, many refugees in. But what else are we supposed to do?”

Nick, 32

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“I don’t think it is racist. There are numerous national security and economic issues to consider when you’re looking at letting hundreds of thousands of people into a country. You have to look at protecting people who are already here and the institutions they’ve built. Our situation is utterly different from Germany’s: they have an ageing population. They arguably need an influx of migrants to keep their economy going.”

Tom, 45

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“It’s all about context, your own feelings, your own position, the way you look at that world. Certain papers, certain politicians – they have an agenda and they follow it, sometimes for massive personal profit. In this debate I think fear is more of a motivator than racism. In the current climate, which is precarious, fear plays well. If people felt more secure they would be less scared. That being said, I look at the debate over Europe and I look at the debate they’re having about migration in America and I certainly don’t feel disillusioned about our system and the way we do things.”