Two-thirds of British residents fear violence as migrant tensions rise
By JAMES SLACK
The Daily Mail
Last updated at 00:09am on 18th April 2008
Almost two-thirds of British residents fear race relations are so poor that tensions are likely to spill over into violence, the BBC has found.
Of 1,000 men and women polled, 59 per cent said the UK had too many immigrants and almost half – 49 per cent – wanted foreigners to be encouraged to leave.
A quarter of those questioned agreed that, because of immigration, “my area doesn't feel like Britain”.
This was up from 12 per cent in 2005. Some 58 per cent said parts of Britain feel like a foreign country.
During the past three years, between 800,000 and one million Eastern Europeans have arrived in the UK to work.
The proportion of people describing themselves as “racially prejudiced” was down to 20 per cent, from 24 per cent in 2005.
But three out of four thought there was now a great deal or a fair amount of tension between races and nationalities.
Almost two in three feared tension was certain or likely to lead to violence, although it is not clear whether they are worrying about full-blown street riots or minor scuffles.
Britain's last serious race riots were seven years ago, when violent clashes erupted between white and Asian youths in Northern England.
Equality and Human Rights Commission head Trevor Phillips said the poll findings were “alarming”.
Mr Phillips told the BBC: “What worries me is if that friction starts to catch fire – if people do genuinely believe it's going to catch fire then we're in trouble.”
The survey was commissioned to mark the 40th anniversary of Enoch Powell's infamous 'rivers of blood' speech, in which he described the indigenous population's “sense of alarm and resentment” over immigration.
The findings are very close to those of other recent polls. Earlier this month, a YouGov survey found four-fifths of the population – 83 per cent – considers there is an “immigration crisis”.
That poll, carried out for Channel Four's Dispatches, found 69 per cent of the population thinks special treatment of immigrants causes British people to “lose out”.
Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said last night: “I've been saying for two years that immigration is top of the list of voters” concerns.
“The British public want to see change to the immigration system and the Government has got the message.
“That is why 2008 sees the biggest shake-up to immigration and border security in 45 years with a points system like the one in Australia and new rules to make people earn their stay in the UK, including speaking English and abiding by our rules.
“That is what is going to make our immigration system fit for the future.”
The Government confirmed yesterday that it will not appeal against a High Court judgment which said thousands of highly-skilled migrants previously threatened with deportation could stay in Britain.
Ministers had said they were considering an appeal after new “points-based” rules were branded unlawful and “an abuse of power” when applied to migrants who were already in Britain.
Those affected are mainly doctors, engineers, financiers and other professionals, who were encouraged to bring their talents to the UK without holding a job offer.