Are half my FB friends racists, or are they just scared?

As a result of the refugee crisis I have found myself increasingly categorising my FB friends as either racists or non-racists based on the posts their share and comment on.  Having friends with such repugnant (to me) points of view leaves me in a dilemma. The easiest option would be to purge my friends list, but in every other regard I admire these people and want to remain a part of their lives.  These friends would also, I am sure, not class themselves as racists, but rather rational pragmatists. So what has led them to express such views?

Fear is a powerful tool. It is used by advertisers to make us buy products we don’t really need and by health campaigners to prompt us to change our behaviour. It is also used by political parties and pressure groups to advance a particular ideology.

Recently, some political parties and anti-immigration organisations have been spreading fear through misinformation that if Britain lets in some refugees then many more will come; and that these refugees will be an economic burden ultimately bankrupting Britain.

However, research demonstrates that both these beliefs are false.

So this is my attempt to share the facts with all my FB friends in the hopes my newsfeed will no longer be clogged up with Britain First posts.

Fiction Fact
Asylum seekers must stay and register in the first country they arrive in. There is no law that states this, but countries find it administratively easier to apply this rule, which is known as ‘Dublin regulations’. These regulations allows one EU country to require another to accept responsibility for an asylum claim where certain conditions apply.

As far back as 2001 the EU published a directive that empowers member states to bypass the system and admit asylum seekers in cases of “mass influx”.  Germany has already suspended ‘Dublin Regulations’. Source: Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/truth-about-refugees#.VfQY-xFVhBc

Britain can’t afford to take more than 20,000 Syrian refugees because they are all going to claim benefits.

And they will take jobs away from British people.

Research conducted by University College London found that since 2000 refugees were less likely than native Brits to be on state benefit and no more likely than natives to be in social housing. And unlike native Brits they have contributed a net £5 billion to the UK economy in taxes.

Considering there are now almost four million people fleeing violence in Syria, 20,000 just doesn’t cut it!

This can be the case in some areas of the UK if it is not managed well. Minimum wage, for example, is a way of ensuring that immigrants do not undercut locals. Some studies have shown that migrants create jobs for local people – overall taking account of a number of research studies the impact on jobs and wages appears to be neutral or positive. Source: New Scientist, 12th September 2015 edition, p.10-12.

Europe is experiencing an unprecedented influx of both economic migrants and refugees. According to research, labour migration into Western Europe has been falling steadily since 2007. And whilst refugee numbers have been increasing since the Arab spring of 2010, they still have not reached 1992 levels, when millions of people fled Yugoslavia. Source: New Scientist, 12th September 2015 edition, p.5.
If we take in refugees that are already in Europe it will only encourage more to come. This relates to push and pull factors. A push factor is violence, or lack of food and sanitation in refugee camps in for example Jordan or Hungary. A pull factor is benefits, housing or jobs etc.

So far there is no evidence of pull factors, but a great deal of evidence for push factors. Source: The Oxford Martin School on Global challenges.

The UK is a soft touch compared to other EU countries. In the UK, the weekly allowance for a single adult asylum-seeker is £36.95 per week, lower than many other EU countries. The equivalent weekly rate in France, for example, is £58.50 (on an exchange rate of 73p to the euro).

Elsewhere in the EU, asylum-seekers must be permitted to work if their claims have not been decided within 9 months, although some countries permit this after less time. This does not apply in the UK, where permission to work will not be granted unless 12 months have past and the claim remains undecided. The UK has introduced severe restrictions on what work an asylum-seeker may be permitted to do even if this condition is met.

Detention is used much more extensively in the UK’s asylum system than in other EU countries. Those countries also have time limits on how long a person may be detained under immigration powers, whereas the UK has no time limit. Source: Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org.uk/truth-about-refugees#.VfQY-xFVhBc

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5 thoughts on “Are half my FB friends racists, or are they just scared?”

  1. It’s somewhat demeaning and in no way conducive to discussion to brand people you disagree with as either bigoted or blinded by fear. I don’t even disagree with you on the issue itself. It’s just a large reason this debate gets so vicious and unproductive is that the side which should know better spends most of its time attacking the character of the other side. If we’re unable to make a point that isn’t prefaced by a description of our opponents as racists, we’ll only succeed in contributing to the sort of siege mentality that breeds racism in the first place.

    As a side note, references to migration levels in the wake of the Yugoslav war don’t really help to refute the point that “Europe is experiencing an unprecedented influx of both economic migrants and refugees”, what with the former Yugoslavia actually having been located in Europe and all.

    1. Thanks for your comment. This blog post is an opinion piece, which is me trying to work out why I was viewing my FB friends in this binary way (racist/non) since the crisis unfolded. I do believe fear is a driver in a lot of prejudiced behaviour as opposed to really believing that ‘others’, in this case refugees, are inferior. I don’t believe the vast majority of people in my FB list are racist, but I do believe many are worried about the impact of refugees coming to Britain, and if my slightly inflammatory post gets them to read the facts (based on a consensus of research), then maybe it will help. Maybe not.

      I am not sure about your second point – in that where migrants and refugees come from is not the relevant point, but that Europe has coped before with a influx of people displaced from their country and seeking refuge.

  2. I had a friend who constantly emailed me the lies that someone had churned out to justify their case for some situation. Most were anti Muslim, Many were easily proved false, and I would let him know with my proof, and some, I argued against their reasoning, but I told him I didn’t want him to stop sending me his forwards because I was interested in what other people were saying on these matters. So he did, and after a while, I saw the futility of my replies. I wasn’t going to change his mind and he wasn’t going to change mine. After about six years later, the emails stopped, which was interesting, because by that stage, I was seriously tiring of them and considered deleting them without even looking at them.
    I don’t get many on my current Facebook page, but when I do, I just scroll past them. I hope some one will change their minds one day, but I don’t think I can, no matter what rational arguments I have backing me up. Instead, I do my best to lead by example, and part of that example is accepting other points of view, even if I don’t agree with them. .

  3. Thanks for joining in Juli. I agree that I need to lead by example, but there is a fine line between accepting and condoning. I was beginning to feel implicit in the proliferation of these posts because I was just ignoring them (by not challenging them, the impression is I don’t find them offensive). This was post was an attempt to get my FB ‘friends’ to think about why they are feeling so negative about refugees and to try and present some facts. However, you are possibly right in that I have only served to make the situation worse.

  4. This is a very interesting discussion folks. I think it highlights the overwhelming problem that we have as humans. Many, probably most – and maybe all of us take positions on things which we don’t fully understand, haven’t properly thought about and which are triggered by previous experiences or overheard opinions. Even where these are based on a solid foundation we then tend to recruit facts or opinions which aren’t verified to support the thing we ‘know’.
    How many times do we ‘know’ something is true? Saturated fats cause heart attacks and we’ve known that for decades but recent scientific evidence throws doubt on it being the fat, suggesting that it’s more related to a combination of attributes of red meat. I’m sorry that I’m a bit off the subject here but it was the first thing which came to mind.
    I think the best we can do is to gently push in what we think is the right direction and have compassion for people who flung here and there by fear and misinformation.
    Words have power and many words have associations that aren’t meant by the speaker – something may be a lie but that word implies deliberate misinformation where it might just be misunderstanding. If we call it a lie we can create instant reaction and hardening of attitudes.
    Let’s be gentle and understanding – we can’t change the world in an instant but we can do it one moment at a time.

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