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Refugees in Limbo:Confronting Discrimination and Institutional Racism in Europe's Immigration Crisis

By Saarah Rahman

Refugees flee their home country due to violence, crossing international borders for safety. However, they are met with discrimination and mistreatment, violating their human rights. This article attempts to discuss government leaders' refusal to accept refugees based on discriminatory political narratives and bias from international communities and social organisations towards refugees, specifically in European countries. The article then proposes policy recommendations to address institutional racism at global, national, and societal levels for increased migration without discrimination. The central argument of this article focuses on Europe, which has been dealing with an ‘immigration crisis’ since 2015. Nonetheless, this argument can also be extended to other parts of the world. Overall, this article claims refugees face political and social discrimination across international borders due to prejudices that stem from institutional racism, which infringes on their human rights.

Discriminatory Government Narratives and Their Impact on Refugee Rights

Government discourse towards refugees heightens discriminatory sentiments, which leads to human rights abuses of refugees. This is exemplified by the United Kingdom, which has plans to deport and process asylum seekers in Rwanda. The Conservative Party’s Rwadan Plan goes against article 9 of the UNICEF declaration of human rights that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”. Robert Nozick argues that “the state is obliged to protect the rights of citizens and noncitizens equally”. However, the European Commission has reduced the number of refugees distributed amongst EU countries from “160,000 refugees in 2015 to 33,000 places in 2017”. The UK and EU highlight negative global attitudes against refugees seeking asylum.

The reason behind dehumanising international policymaking towards refugees is government narratives highlighting prejudices against refugees. A prominent example of a racist government narrative is UKIP’s campaign during Brexit. UKIP leader Nigel Farage's social influence incited “racial fears and anxieties, also implicated ordinary Britons who were infected/affected by the propaganda”. Therefore, governments can pass bills discriminating against refugees’ human rights because of a lack of individuals protesting against government decisions. This consequently comes from the negative labels certain political parties have attached to refugees. The representation of Arabs as terrorists or extreme Muslims, mentioned by Edward Said in his work Orientalism, reinforces Western perceptions of refugees, particularly those of Arab descent who make up the majority of European refugees. By attaching labels, politicians attempt to justify policies as safeguarding our borders. This strategy is employed to gain public support, as demonstrated by UKIP. Thus, refugees face human rights abuses from governments because of racist political rhetoric within democratic institutions in international policymaking.

Secondly, refugees face prejudices within the global community, which leads to experiences of hate crime and social exclusion that infringes on human rights. For example, two Muslim women were murdered at an Islamic Centre in Portugal and Swedish far-right groups are shown burning the Quran. Both examples illustrate growing prejudices towards refugees. This is because the majority of European refugees originate from Islamic Countries, with “32 per cent of refugees in Sweden coming from Middle Eastern countries” and others from Syria and Afghanistan. Religious discrimination goes against Article 18, which states individuals can “freely practice their faith in communities”.

Institutional racism in the context of this article is the prejudices refugees face, leading to social exclusion. According to Klas Borell, “prejudice about a minority group may lead to hate crimes being excused or even defended”. The Restorative Justice Council report indicates that refugees face difficulties seeking justice due to “language barriers present in courts”. This provides an advantage for assailants because they are fluent in English, undermining Article 6, which states that individuals have the right to “a free and fair trial”. This results from racism present in Western society reinforced by institutionalised racism within social institutions like the education system. Barry Troyna and Jenny Williams alleged that the “British system is institutionally racist, and they denounce the predominance of European languages over Asian languages”. Refugees encounter social exclusion and are hindered by racial barriers that prevent them from achieving justice, indicating the interconnectedness of various social bodies. Thus, refugees have their human rights neglected by social institutions because of prejudice caused by institutional racism.

Policy Recommendations for Combating Institutional Racism and Fostering Inclusivity

The core issue my article addresses is institutional racism, creating prejudices as this negatively labels refugees, undermining their human rights. Due to Europe's extensive history of colonialism, it is challenging to eliminate institutional racism as a result. My proposed strategies come from various perspectives, including the intergovernmental, national government, and societal outlooks aimed at tackling institutional racism through regulatory measures.

The EU Parliament should offer assistance programs to refugees, with oversight from international groups like the UN, to prevent any misappropriation of funds, such as constructing inhumane detention facilities for refugees. Algorithms on social media should monitor far-right groups and individuals to avoid misinformation and to minimise harm as a way of addressing racist political narratives.

Furthermore, education must improve to accommodate non-European topics and ensure tolerance and acceptance through primary and secondary education. Finally, it is essential to establish offices dedicated to minorities within all intergovernmental and domestic government and social institutions. Specialised offices should guarantee that legislation does not discriminate against refugees’ fundamental rights and help to eliminate prejudices. Thus, my policies specifically target the regulation of political and social bodies to ensure biases do not interfere with policy and social decision-making.

Institutional racism fosters prejudices towards refugees, which undermine their fundamental human rights. The issue of discrimination and mistreatment towards refugees is a global concern that needs immediate attention. The refusal to accept refugees based on discriminatory political narratives and bias from international communities and social organisations violates their human rights. Policymakers at all levels need to create policies that promote inclusivity. The situation in Europe highlights a need for change in attitudes but is not limited to a singular region. We must work together as a global community to create a world where everyone is welcome, regardless of their origins.

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