General Election 2015: What Do Ethnic Minorities Want From Politicians?

Compassionate Eye Foundation/Jasper White via Gett

Despite making up more than 14% of the UK population, black, asian and minority ethnics (BAME) have been left feeling invisible and ignored by the government.

Only 4% of Parliament is comprised of MPs representing this group, leading to questions as to why the government does not reflect the diverse British nation.

Reading University student Rahat Hafiz says the school system needs to be addressed as teachers are being treated unfairly. "The needs of the young population are being ignored, in favour of appeasing the increasing right wing population with immigration and EU policies," he adds.

Ebony Montague, who describes herself as a political activist, fully intends on casting her vote this year. She lives in supported accommodation with other young people who are estranged from their parents. Some of the struggles they face include mental health and/or personal problems which make them eligible for state benefits.

Montague hopes mental health services for young people will be "significantly improved" with better social mobility schemes for those of a working class background.

"We fear that a cut in welfare for 16 to 25 year olds to 'encourage people to get back to work or education' will ultimately leave us homeless, and be detrimental to our mental health."

Priya Changela, a South Asian communities manager at Migreat, an organisation offering free visa advice, does not want parties to focus ib immigrants and migrants.

"They need to focus on policy improvements in areas such as unemployment, regularisation and protection of workers, access to the internet and education."

Aisha Farooq, a freelance writer agrees with needing to improve education.

"The curriculum is too demanding for children without enough teaching resources in place to support it." She also wants the government to take immediate action on the overburdened NHS and provide better funding to address a lack of resources.

In the last election, the Runnymede Trust reported the number of BAME MPs elected to Parliament had increased from 14 to 27.

Experts predict the number of BAME MPs is set to hit a record high with some saying that there could be as many as 40 after the election.

The predicted rise is interpreted by some as a sign of progress, but many BAME voters feel that it is not enough.

Farooq argues parties only rely on the ethnic vote to make up for numbers, saying: "I'm not sure the issues of BAME's are ever really addressed - at least not in the sense of any real change.

"There's been an increase in BAME politicians, but in terms of policies I'm not sure."

In addition, Changela says BAME communities need to have a more organised voice in order to maximise their potential.

"While there are quite a few BAME politicians in Parliament, minority communities should have more clarity and easier access to information regarding what is being discussed by the Government with regards to minority issues.

Another contentious issue concerning BAMEs - and the British population as a whole - are policies to cap immigration and prevent immigrants from entering the UK.

In 2011, a report showed that 62% of Britons agreed that immigration had made it more difficult for British people to get jobs. The news preceded an unexpected spike in popularity for UKIP in November 2014. This visibly shook up other political parties who decided to list immigration as a key issue to tackle.

Hand in hand with immigration policies, is the public's increasing support for UKIP, something Hafiz is extremely uncomfortable with.

"Their policies are outdated and don't seem like capable leaders. They're just saying what a certain portion of the population want to hear. As a minority I don't feel comfortable with it at all."

Farooq also expressed her concerns: "Everything they (UKIP) stand for opposes BAME communities. Their ideology is potentially very dangerous. In today's climate where race relations are so under threat UKIP's rhetoric is very unhelpful."

A survey conducted by British Future identified that when it came to discussing issues around immigration, the British public trusted migrants more than politicians - something Changela says is important to remember.

"The problem is that UKIP are being given too much of a voice, unnecessarily. All the media attention the party has been getting is taking us away from the real societal issues that we need to address."

The latest poll results currently show Labour and the Conservatives tied for first with 32% each. UKIP follows with 16% of the electorate favouring the party and the Green Party narrowly beating the Lib Dems to win 8% of the public's support.

However, others, like Montague aren't worried about UKIP.

She firmly believes that the BAME electorate will unite and inevitably vote against them, but does concede they are a problem.

"Unfortunately UKIP is a middle class version of the EDL - it will have the money and persuasion to refine itself and have more of an influence. However their stance on immigration is being used as cloak for deep-rooted racism."

Figures from ICM show public support for UKIP is dwindling, but a survey from 2014 shows that immigration is the second most important issue to members of the electorate.

It is impossible to predict the outcome of the election nor what will happen in the next few months. What is certain is that many BAME voters do not feel assured by Government policies but desperately want to have their voices heard.

Popular in the Community