A new report has revealed Ukrainian refugees to the UK are concerned about the amount of Muslims and ethnic minorities, with some concerned for their safety.
The report from Channel 4’s Communities Editor Darshna Soni, looked at the case of a number of refugees from Ukraine who had settled in Birmingham, one of the most diverse cities in the UK. Andrea, one of the hosts for the British government’s “Homes for Ukraine” scheme, said that they hadn’t “necessarily taken into consideration the cultural differences.”
“We were quite shocked at how difficult [the Ukrainian refugee Andrea housed] found different cultures. She felt there were just too many Muslims, too many people with different skin colours,” Andrea told Soni.
The woman’s son was placed in a school in the local area where the majority of children were black or Asian. Andrea recounted that the refugee complained about the “demographics” of the school, and that she was worried for his safety, as there were “not enough white kids.”
“The majority of my neighbours are Muslims. A lot of them are Kashmiris or Pakistanis, Indians, and they’re wonderful people,” Andrea said. “You just felt, well if you would sort of give them the time, perhaps we’d come to the same conclusion.”
Oksana, a Ukrainian refugee, who came from the “best area” of Kiev, ended up in the “worst area” of Birmingham.
“I was very afraid, because it was not usual for me [to live with people of different ethnicities], and some people just told me about so many dangerous stories.” Some of those stories included cases of Islamic terrorism.
“I saw statistics on the police website, and so I saw statistics of criminals. And also I read in the internet in English when I began, this is area from terrorism,” Oksana told Soni. She has since moved to a new area.
Cheryl Garvey, a “diversity trainer,” has helped run a voluntary workshop for Ukrainian refugees in Birmingham, helping them to integrate into a multicultural society. Councils were originally given £10,500 per refugee for integration purposes, but funding was halved for more recent arrivals. Garvey’s workshop receives no government assistance.
“For people who aren’t from the UK, they don’t realise there’s lots of people who look like me here, and that can be quite like, wow, you know, I thought England was full of English people! And it is, cause I’m English, but I just look very different,” Garvey said.
As a “six foot tall black woman,” Garvey said that some of the refugees initially tensed up and “clutch[ed] their handbags,” but “by the time we’d kind of got into it, people had warmed up, there was [sic] lots more smiles, they were talking to each other. So I feel like we got it just about right.”
One Ukrainian who attended the class, Olga, said it was “amazing” to see people of so many different religions and ethnicities. “British people are not only white English people, it’s all people here is British, so for us it’s very important to understand from their history,” she said, after attending the workshop.
Some British residents were less than impressed with the attitude of the Ukranians, labelling them as “racists,” and telling them to “pack [their] bags” and “zip it” about Britain’s multicultural, diverse society.
This news and commentary by Jack Hadfield originally appeared on Valiant News.