The arrival of large numbers of Ukranian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion to their country since February 2022 has been met with a wave of compassion and solidarity in most western European countries. However, critical voices have pointed out what has been perceived as hypocrisy, or a ‘double standard’, regarding attitudes towards refugees. Why are some of them welcomed with open arms, while others are being repressed at the border? While Ukrainians could fast-track their asylum claims and enjoy protection status with minimum requirements, people fleeing other conflicts in the Middle East and Africa were still getting stuck in lengthy bureaucratic processes and often becoming the object of resentment and discrimination in the host society. Is this so because of racial difference?
The increased arrivals of refugees in a short span of time reminded many in Europe of the peak of arrivals from Afghanistan and Syria in the mid-2010s. Public opinion in various western European societies of alleged unbridgeable cultural differences or difficulties towards ‘integration’ of the newly arrived did not apply to Ukrainian refugees. While Ukrainians, critical voices argued, were perceived in the mainstream public opinion as ethnically, culturally and racially close to western Europeans, other victims of armed conflict equally entitled to protection were still represented or perceived as ‘less deserving’ by social and political actors holding anti-immigration positions. This shows the extent to which the way migrants are portrayed in Europe is a highly contested matter that connects deeply to values, perceptions and anxieties permeating those societies.
Earlier this year, Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced she was not proceeding with multiple recommendations made by Wendy Williams’ public inquiry into the Windrush Scandal. The inquiry examined the Home Office’s adverse actions against people from the Windrush generation who predominantly migrated to Britain from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1973 (Gentleman 2019; Slaven 2022). Reports have detailed the profound effects on those directly impacted, revealing stories of individuals who were denied healthcare and welfare services, and in some cases were ripped away from their families; detained and even deported (Gentleman 2019; Williams 2020; Slaven 2022). The ensuing scandal thrust their treatment into the public consciousness and ignited a public uproar. Yet, as the scandal faded from media attention, we still have a limited understanding of the scandal’s broader impact on Britain's racialised communities, beyond those directly affected by the Home Office’s actions.
The views and opinions expressed on the Identities Blog are solely those of the original blog post authors, and not of the journal, Taylor & Francis Group or the University of Glasgow.