Robert Jenrick has suggested that the recent protests in London and mass migration are linked. (Aaron Chown – PA Images via Getty Images)

Robert Jenrick has been accused of “sowing discord” after suggesting that “deeply disturbing behavior” at recent protests in London was “linked to uncontrolled mass migration”.

The former immigration minister, who resigned this week over disagreements over the government’s Rwanda policy, said many people at those marches through the capital “did not share British values”. This appeared to be a reference to recent pro-Palestine marches in London, although he did not mention the areas by name.

With around 1.2 million people estimated to have migrated to the UK in the year to June 2023, according to the ONS, Jenrick suggested that such an influx “impacts our ability to successfully integrate these people and build a united country.” be”.

When asked to provide evidence to support this claim, he told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “I think there are communities in our country where people live parallel lives. It is an obvious observation that a million people come to our country every year. “It is an immense challenge to integrate successfully.”

He added: “I saw this recently, for example, in the marches through London, where I saw some people who simply didn’t share British values. I thought this was wrong, it was deeply disturbing, and we had to do something to address it.

Watch: ‘I will not support Rwanda bill,’ says Robert Jenrick

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Jenrick’s comments echo those of former home secretary Suella Braverman, who told the Sunday Telegraph that a “rapid increase in migration” was “stressing community cohesion”. She added that recent events on the streets of London proved she was right when she claimed that “multiculturalism has failed”.

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The Metropolitan Police have made a number of arrests during pro-Palestinian marches in London in recent months, including on charges of inciting racial hatred and supporting the banned terror group Hamas. Given the tens of thousands of people who took part in these marches, the number of arrests was comparatively small. The Met Police said that of the estimated 40,000 people who took part in the demonstration this Saturday, a total of 13 were arrested.

Still, some ministers are alarmed by the protests, and Braverman has been criticized for describing them as “hate marches” in an unauthorized op-ed for the Times. Many critics blamed a group of right-wing counter-protesters for clashes with police on Armistice Day, which ultimately led to their dismissal.

Despite political pressure to prevent the protest, Met Police resisted calls for a ban given the significance of the day, saying banning demonstrations on security grounds should be a “last resort” and that the threshold had not been met. Organizer of the Cenotaph’s Armistice Day event, Richard Hughes, expressed his support for the protest, saying: “We are a democratic organization that remembers those who fought for democracy, so freedom of expression is important.”

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in pro-Palestinian marches in London since Israel’s war in Gaza began. (Mark Kerrison via Getty Images)

The Migrants’ Rights Network echoed these sentiments when asked about Jenrick’s recent comments, telling Yahoo News: “Everyone, including migrants, has the fundamental right to protest injustice.” The former immigration minister’s comments and fixation on ” Integration” and the false idea of ​​“mass migration” are obviously inflammatory and intended to sow division. This is a deliberate attempt to convey the idea that migrants are a threat…

“Linking migration to protests (and demonstrators) demanding an end to the genocide in Palestine is another mechanism for problematizing migration. This is being used to justify increasingly strict immigration policies as well as racial profiling and surveillance of migrants and migrant communities.”

The Migrants’ Rights Network claimed that “terms such as ‘assimilation’, ‘cohesion’, ‘integration’ and ‘British values’ are underpinned by racist undertones that portray migrants as a threat… Migrants do not threaten the unity of communities. Scaremongering.” Politics and divisive commentary do this, and we must reject these attempts to pit migrants against other communities. Instead, we must all strive to create a society where migrants and other marginalized communities feel safe and respected.”

Suella Braverman described pro-Palestinian protests as “hate marches” shortly before she was fired as interior minister. (Yui Mok – PA Images via Getty Images)

Government accused of ‘restricting civil liberties’

While there has undoubtedly been some anti-Semitic imagery and extremist views expressed in recent demonstrations, human rights groups fear that anger over the war in Gaza could be used to suppress legitimate protests.

Government plans leaked to the Observer last month revealed proposals to expand the definition of an extremist to include anyone who “wants to overthrow or undermine the UK system of parliamentary democracy, its institutions and values”.

Ilyas Nagdee of Amnesty International told the newspaper that this expansion of the definition would “criminalize any dissent.” Akiko Hart, interim director of the civil rights group Liberty, added: “This proposed change would be a reckless and cynical move and threaten to significantly stifle free speech.”

At the time, a government spokesman said: “We are clear that there is no place for extremism and in recent years we have taken action to tackle hatred and those who seek to divide us.” As you would expect, we are checking constantly changing our approach to countering extremism to ensure it meets the evolving challenge it presents.”

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