A recent report “Challenging Racism: Ending Hate” by Richard Montague and Peter Shirlow blows apart some of the myths spread by opportunist right-wing politicians and the tabloid media surrounding migrant workers. Firstly, social housing allocation clearly does not “favour” ethnic minorities. With economic migrants comprising 4.3% of the population in Northern Ireland, they only make up 1.2% of social housing tenants with the vast majority renting privately.
Another common myth that migrants are “benefit tourists” simply does not hold up to evidence. Recent migrants to the UK are actually 21% less likely than the established population to receive benefits, with less than 5% of EU migrants claiming benefits at any one time. The report underlines the dangers inherent in these myths. Between 2013 and 2014 there has been a 43% increase in racially motivated attacks, with 70% of these occurring in Belfast.
Migrant workers play a vital role in the economy. Thanks to the politicians health cuts the NHS is currently on its knees and could not function without migrant labour with around 30% of doctors and 40% of nurses born abroad. Racism has always been a tool used by political and media elites at times of crisis to exploit people’s real and heightened concerns about scarce resources and divide and divert them from challenging the real source of their problems, the system itself.