We Are Proud to Live in a Diverse and Tolerant Society

“We are proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society. Racism, xenophobia and hate crimes have no place in our country.
We Basildon Borough Council condemn racism, xenophobia and hate crimes unequivocally. We will not allow hate to become acceptable.
Basildon Borough Council will work to ensure local bodies and programmes have support and resources needed to fight and prevent racism and xenophobia.
We reassure all people living in Basildon Borough Council that they are valued members of our community.”

The above is the motion that was supported unanimously by Basildon Council, the motion was moved by Cllr Burton-Sampson and seconded by Cllr Block, below is the text of Cllr Burton-Sampsons speech:

The recent referendum was an opportunity for our country to democratically express their views on whether to remain or leave the European Union. We live in a democratic society and whilst some of us may not like the results, they have to be accepted.

However, what has followed in our communities has been extremely concerning. Reports are of a significant increase in reported hate crime in the week since the result. 331 hate crimes were reported to the police funded True Vision in the week following the referendum, an increase of 268 over the same period before the referendum. The Met Police report a 50% rise since the vote and they are only those that have actually been reported.

We have all seen the shocking reports of people being targeted in the street, the Polish Community Centre in Hammersmith that was daubed with offensive graffiti, the notes posted through the front doors of migrants homes plus more worrying physical attacks. I have also heard many reports of people being asked when are they leaving now we have voted out of the EU. My own work colleague was ordered whilst walking in the street to go and pack her bags. All of this behaviour is totally unacceptable and certainly does not reflect the voice of the majority of the people in this country, whatever way they voted. People should not be forced to live in fear in our society.

Sadly, this referendum for one reason or another seems to have created worrying divisions in our societies. Using the result as an excuse for racism and xenophobic behaviour is wrong, shameful and not reflective of the spirit of our country.

Many migrants are now living with uncertainty, unsure what will happen next. Will they need to return home, apply for a visa or simply be allowed to carry on with their lives? This uncertainty is impacting their ability to plan for their future. Again I have spoken to people who have lived and been settled here for a number of years who now fear the unknown and feel like their life has been put on hold.

Being a gay man from a mixed race background I have sadly experience racism, xenophobia and hate crime first hand throughout my life including since living here in Basildon. I remember walking home from the station one winters night a few years ago and a group of men started shouting racist abuse at me. I was going about my normal routine and this came totally out of the blue. This impacted me for some months after as I become more anxious and fearful taking that walk home on a dark winters night. How can this be right or acceptable?

Many migrants add a significant amount to our country and we should recognise their value to our society. From NHS staff who perform an invaluable job, professionals who are well embedded into organisations to the server at your local coffee shop or restaurant. Imagine them not being there? Our country would be a poorer place. Many people now call Britain their home or are 2nd or 3rd even 4th generation immigrants. They should not be made to feel they are no longer welcome.

Sadly we have seen hate crime manifest itself in other ways of late. The appalling murder of Labour MP Jo Cox just 3 weeks ago whilst carrying out her constituency work was absolutely shocking to many of us. She was killed for what she believed in and fought for. Hate crime at its worst.

It was positive to see the email from our Chief Executive earlier this week informing us that there had been no evident increase in hate crime in our borough.  But we know it exists both reported and unreported.  I also know from emails that we have received that some residents are fearful at the moment as a result of what they are seeing happening in other parts of the country.

We should work closely together as a council and councillors with our own Anti-Social Behaviour and Inclusion & Diversity Teams and with other organisations: – Essex Police, our Schools and community groups, other local support groups and great organisations such as Hope not Hate to ensure that residents understand that racism, xenophobia and hate crime are unacceptable in our borough and to support those who directly affected or who feel vulnerable.

As leaders in our communities and as responsible members of society, no matter what our political persuasion we should condemn all incidents of racist or xenophobic behaviour and all hate crime. We are a free country, a country that is made better by our diversity and acceptance and tolerance of difference in all its forms. We are inclusive and should continue to be so. No one should be forced to live in fear here. We should value all members of our community.  After all, at our core we are all human beings with feeling and emotions, no matter how we differ from each other.

This is why I urge you to support this motion.