Hatred in the age of coronavirus

Published date
Coronavirus is, in many ways, showing the best of British. But alongside this humanity, we’ve seen a rise in hatred. Far-right extremists have tried to take advantage of coronavirus to spread division. They’re undermining our communities, our trade unions and our hard fought for rights.

This is the first in a new series shining a spotlight on the activities of the far right. Here, I’ll look at the impact of coronavirus on Black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.

Covid is shining a spotlight on institutional racism against BME communities

BME communities have suffered more than most from coronavirus. According to the Office of National Statistics, BME people are nearly twice as likely to die from coronavirus.

Together with the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), we asked Welsh Government to investigate this. In response, a ‘BAME Covid-19 expert advisory group’ was set up.

The committee’s report stated that the impact of coronavirus on Wales’ Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have highlighted a ‘lack of action on race equality’.

The report also made a series of recommendations on:

  • Cultural issues relating to the suitability of health and social services for BME communities
  • Income and employment insecurity
  • Housing overcrowding and environment
  • The financial burden created by migration status
  • The role of structural and systemic racism and disadvantage.

The group also looked at the ongoing risks to front-line healthcare workers. They developed an online risk assessment tool which considers the risk of being from a BME background.

Supporting migrant workers and asylum seekers

We are concerned about the number of outbreaks in sectors with a high number of migrant workers. Many of these workers have no access to proper sick pay. They often have bad terms and conditions of employment and insecure contracts. This means they cannot afford adequate housing and practise social distancing.

We fear a backlash against migrant workers due to these outbreaks.

Unions are doing all they can to negotiate full company sick pay for these workers. We are working with government to see what additional housing support can be provided. We are also calling for asylum seekers to be given the right to work, something which is backed by 71% of the population.

Shining a light – supporting the EHRC’s inquiry

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has announced an inquiry into the impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities.

We welcome this, but believe the inquiry must address the long-standing issues of systemic institutional racism and discrimination. It must hold the UK government to account for failing to adhere to the public sector equality duty.

This inquiry does not replace the call for a judicial public enquiry which many grassroots activists and trade unions support.

Read more about what we think the inquiry must consider.

We echo the EHRC’s statement that this is a ‘once in a generation opportunity to tackle deep-seated inequalities and create a fairer country’.

Black Lives Matter

The murder of George Floyd in the US sparked global protests and activism - including here in Wales. We remain committed to supporting many campaigns for justice. These include the ‘Justice for Christopher Kapessa’ campaign. We recently ran an online event looking at how we can make the economy work for BME communities. You can watch the event again on our YouTube page.

Our ‘BME workers in Wales and Covid-19’ page provides advice and support to BME workers, as well as useful information. But we always need more information on what is happening in Welsh workplaces. We are running a survey to find out the impact of race on BME people’s experience of the workplace. This will help us understand what support you need. It will also provide much-needed evidence for Welsh Government. Help us by completing the survey and letting us know your experiences.