A quarter of migrants working in the arts are considering leaving the UK as a result of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy, according to a new survey.
More than half of 417 respondents to a poll who identified as migrants said that since the policy was introduced in 2012 they had experienced increased discrimination or racial profiling (60%) and emotional stress (58%) while working in the cultural sector.
Similarly, more than half reported encountering additional bureaucracy since 2012, while others cited reduced access to opportunities (38%), increased financial pressures (40%) and having their right to work or study questioned (38%).
As a result of this, 25% said they were thinking about leaving the UK.
Migrants in Culture, a new group set up to tackle issues including discrimination and racial profiling, carried out the survey of a total of 614 migrant and non-migrant cultural workers across the UK and Northern Ireland.
For the purposes of this research, a migrant was defined as anyone who had changed their country of residence to the UK, regardless of their reason for migration or legal status, including EU nationals, people with refugee status, those seeking asylum and other statuses. There is currently no official legal definition of a migrant.
The research looks at how the ‘hostile environment’ policy, introduced by Theresa May during her tenure as home secretary, has impacted the cultural sector. The policy is a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make life in the UK as difficult as possible for people without “leave to remain”, in the hope that they may voluntarily leave.
In other findings from the survey:
• 90% of respondents said they felt fearful and angry about the impact of the ‘hostile environment’ policy on the cultural sector.
• 30% felt disempowered by the policy.
• Nearly half of the respondents who identified as people of colour said they had experienced racial profiling as a result of the policy.
• 79% of respondents said there was no support from their place of work or study to address the impact of the ‘hostile environment’ policy.
The survey also revealed a lack of knowledge around the policy from people in senior positions in arts organisations. Of the 20% of respondents in management roles, 59% said they lacked knowledge about the policy while more than half said they lacked resources to support staff who are impacted by it.
One of the founders of Migrants in Culture, performer Xavier de Sousa, said: “Sometimes the migrant experience within this industry is a very singular one and you think: ‘Maybe this is me, maybe I’m not adequate for this’, but then you see these figures and you go: ‘Actually, no, this is a collective struggle.’
“In a way it’s made me very angry to see these statistics, but at the same time, being a part of Migrants in Culture makes me feel very hopeful, because there’s power in numbers and this shows that people are not alone in their experience.”
The survey encompassed respondents from different sectors across the arts, including theatre and dance (29%), visual art, music and museums.
Following the findings, Migrants in Culture said it was planning a cultural summit in January to explore issues around migrant rights and equality. The organisation is also planning to release a toolkit and training programme for cultural workers and organisations.