‘Racist’ Brexit campaign hurts UK’s Turkish community

‘Racist’ Brexit campaign hurts UK’s Turkish community

'Xenophobic campaign' used by supporters of Brexit is affecting UK's Turkish community, Baroness Hussein-Ece says

By Busra Akin Dincer

LONDON (AA) – The possibility of Turkey’s accession to the European Union has become a central Leave Campaign point ahead of the June 23 referendum on whether the U.K should leave or stay in the bloc.

The hostile rhetoric used by supporters as well as prominent figures of the Brexit campaign has created discomfort within the Turkish community in the U.K. as well as in Turkey.

Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece of the House of Lords told Anadolu Agency Thursday that the Leave Campaign was damaging the country's cohesion.

"Turks who live in U.K are not happy with what has been said. Portraying Turkish people in this way is a very damaging thing to do," Hussein-Ece said.

According to the British Home Office, more than 500,000 people of Turkish origin live in the U.K. as of 2011.

She also said that the Leave Campaign was misrepresenting actual facts and strongly objected to statements claiming that Turkey’s accession would somehow lead to more criminality and terrorism in the EU.

"It is a very xenophobic campaign. Brexit people who want to leave the European Union are using Turkey in a very negative and unfair way. They are misrepresenting the actual facts," she said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron joined the debate last Sunday when he said it would take “decades” for Turkey to join the EU.

“Turkey joining the EU is not remotely on the cards,” the British premier said, according to his televised comments.

Cameron’s statements came after British Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt, who is a prominent figure of the Leave Campaign, claimed that Britain would be “unable to stop Turkey joining the EU”.

Referring to Mordaunt’s statements, British premier emphasized on the U.K.’s right to veto should another country attempt to join the EU. He said that when the time comes, the U.K. “would be able to say no" to Turkey’s accession.

Even though Britain is considered a strong supporter of Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union, Cameron's latest comments has opened the way for uncertainty over the U.K.’s position on the issue, creating unease among the Turkish community in Britain.

Dr. Will Jones, a political scientist at the University of Oxford, told Anadolu Agency Thursday that the rhetoric used by the Leave Campaign was very "dangerous" for the community.

"Leave Campaign is deeply disappointing and deeply embarrassing for Britain. In the long term, it runs the risk to huge community damage," Jones said, adding that such rhetoric attempt to damage British relations with Turkey and Turkish individuals in Britain.

Jones said there was a very "racist" part to this "dangerous" rhetoric.

"There is a deep and very unpleasant seam of Islamophobia in this discussion, which has been capitalized on by the Leave Campaign in a way that is deeply unpleasant," he said, adding: "but I hope it fails."

About Cameron’s comments hinting at shift in the U.K.’s support for Turkey’s accession process, he said: "He still believes that Turkey should be part of EU but he knows that he cannot say that right now."

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