The UN’s refugee chief this week has said that a worrying “climate of xenophobia” has taken hold in Europe.
We are living through, arguably, the greatest rise of xenophobia since World War II. This rise coincides with the biggest influx of migrants in Europe since World War II.
However, this is not just a European trend. South Africa has been accused of being xenophobic for years now by other African nations. The level of xenophobia in South Africa has led to wide-spread reports of ‘migrants’ and ‘foreigners’ arming themselves for their own safety.
We have also seen a dramatic and similarly frightening rise of xenophobic rhetoric in the US Presidential campaign. Donald Trump has now famously targeted ‘Mexicans’ and ‘Muslims’ throughout his campaign accusing them for many of America’s problems. In a campaign in which he has not been fearful in promoting violence, such racist and xenophobic remarks borderline on deliberate inciting of racial and xenophobic attacks.
In the UK, the upcoming EU referendum or Brexit, a distasteful campaign of anti-immigrant, racial profiling and xenophobic promotion has taken hold. A campaign which has become so tainted and filled with hate, was is it really that hard to believe that the UK has seen its first assassination of a MP since 1990, when Ian Gow was assassinated by the IRA, times that no Britain wants to return to. Jo Cox’s assassination appears to be a direct response to Britain’s role in the EU and the migration crisis as her assailant shouted ‘Put Britain first’ both before and after shooting her.
Despite the far-right party, ‘Britain First’, stating they had nothing to do with the attack and would never promote such an attack, it is no surprise that the parties rhetoric and rise in political standing has led to such a disaster. Britain First gained international fame when their candidate for London Mayor turned their back on Sadiq Khan the winner of the Mayoral election, because Mr Khan is a muslim.
However, it is not just ‘Britain First’, a fringe party in UK politics that is promoting xenophobic beliefs. Nigel Farage is the leader of one of the biggest parties, UK independence party, in the UK. He is also running the alternate Leave campaign for the EU referendum. Farage has publicly accused the official Leave Campaign of not targeting immigrants enough in the campaign. Meanwhile he has taken anti-EU campaigning to a new level of propaganda, that a certain historic european fascist would be proud of. In fact Nigel Farage’s latest poster, the famous ‘Breaking Point’ poster, has even been likened to Nazi propaganda by George Osbourne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Also across Europe we are seeing a rise in right-wing, nationalist and xenophobic parties. As you can see, to the left, Europe has become predominantly a right-wing leaning political continent. In Austria, for the first time since WWII, neither of Austria’s two main centrist parties made it to the presidential run-off. In Denmark, the government relies on the support of the nationalist Danish People’s Party, while also claiming the toughest immigration rules in Europe. Meanwhile in Finland, the leader of the nationalist Finns Party is also the foreign minister after it joined a coalition government last year. In France, the far-right National Front party won a record 6.8 million votes in regional elections in 2015. Then finally in Hungary, the far-right Jobbik party is currently polling in third place. The Jobbik party organises patrols by an unarmed but uniformed “Hungarian Guard” in Roma (Gypsy) neighbourhoods. These patrols have been the source of wide-spread fear and terror with unconfirmed reports unprovoked attacks and fear tactics.
The question of where this “climate of xenophobia” will take us may depend heavily on the result of the UK Brexit. However, regardless of what happens on the 23rd and the days that follow, there will remain a frightening global rise of xenophobic rhetoric. The last time we saw such a global level of self-isolation and xenophobia led to the greatest global catastrophe in human history that is the second World War.