Hate crimes against EU migrants could be stopped if the Government immediately guaranteed their residency rights, a Leave-backing former Cabinet Minister claimed today.
Owen Paterson, who served in David Cameron’s Cabinet for four years, urged the Government to carry out the move in order to calm any anti-migrant sentiment that occurred in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Figures released last month revealed hate crimes went up by 46% the week after the referendum, and a Polish man was murdered in Harlow, Essex at the end of August in what police believe was a possible “hate crime”.
Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly refused to guarantee the residency rights of EU citizens in the UK once Britain leaves the EU.
Speaking at fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference this afternoon, Paterson conceded there has been some “unpleasantness” since the June 23 vote.
He said: “There were a few ugly stupid things said. There was a particularly appalling murder of a Pole, which is wholly totally shocking. I think the way to stop all this is to guarantee everybody – I think we’re up to 800,000 poles, 900,000 Poles – to say to everyone here if you’ve got a job and you’re resident here, then you are welcome to stay.”
According to statistics published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council in July, there were 3,076 hate crimes recorded in the final two weeks of June - a 42 per cent rise on the previous year.
This continued with a 49% rise in incidents to 1,863 in the last week in July when compared with the previous year, while the week after saw a record 58% increase in recorded incidents to 1,787.
Paterson claimed that people calling for a new immigration system, which could include an end to free movement of people from the EU, were not “little Englanders.”
He claimed a new house needed to be built every six minutes to cope with demand, and said: “No one is racist, we’re just being realistic.”
In July, London Mayor Sadiq Khan joined more than 80 MPs and activists in calling for the Government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens currently in the UK.
Khan, along with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and Green MP Caroline Lucas, said: “We believe European Union citizens who have acquired the right to live and work in the UK should not be used as a negotiating tool in any discussions between the Government and the EU over the terms of our exit.
“Fears over repatriation of these settled citizens is causing
uncertainty and worry across the UK.”
May has repeatedly refused to make such a pledge, arguing that all EU countries must give the same promise to UK citizens in their countries.
Speaking in Italy in July, the Prime Minister said: “I want to be able to guarantee their rights in the UK. I expect to be able to do that and I intend to be able to do that, to guarantee their rights. The only circumstances in which that would not be possible would be if the rights of British citizens living in other EU member states were not guaranteed.”