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It is Improper to be a Racist in England

London welcomed us with a lot of snow and squally wind. In the eyes of the English we were very lucky because such weather is very rare in Britain. The majority of inhabitants in London lack warm clothing in the Russian understanding of the word. So, the heavy snowfall, seemingly in our honor, really surprised the inhabitants. The green grass and flowers looked very strange covered by snow. But what was really surprising was that there was no slush or puddles, and on the next day the snow melted. There was no mud on our boots, because all across the United Kingdom in winter and summer there is just no dirt. It is just different civilization with other standards.

Our contact with this civilization already began in Moscow, where we received our visas in three days with the help of the Political Department of the British Embassy, although this process usually takes ten days. The piquancy of our situation was that some people from our delegation had not only never been abroad before, but also had only received their passports one week before our departure. In such cases, you are usually invited to the embassy for an interview. For certain members of our delegation this would have meant declining to take part in our trip, regarding the fact that they live in the Krasnodar Region and especially because one of them, the colonel of the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs, cannot enter Moscow without special permission. This is not the first time that the Embassy of Great Britain cooperated with us. 20% of the expenses for the project Ethnic Minorities and their Access to the Aministration of Justice, which was part of our visit, was financed by the Fund of Global Opportunities of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Great Britain.

We must say that the Center for Interethnic Cooperation had to spend a lot of energy to convince our partners, European Dialogue (London) and Roma Ural (Yekaterinburg), to undertake all of this in London instead of in Moscow. According to the original version of the project, we, all the partners and leaders of ethnic associations, the employees of the authorities and the police force of the Krasnodar region, Samara, Yekaterinburg and Moscow, had to meet in Moscow to discuss the results of the first stage of the realization of this project. But we suggested organising this discussion in London. Our analysis showed that the visit to London had the biggest impact on the participants, because they received the possibility to become directly familiar with examples of interaction between ethnic associations and the authorities and police force of Great Britain. It is true that, out of almost 200 direct participants of the project, leaders of ethnic associations, employees of the local administrations and law-enforcing bodies from each region all in all 36 people came. Of course, the number of people who wished to come to London was higher. During the seminar in London, in total, 53 people (including the participants of our trip) saw what Civil Society means face-to-face. That was a big achievement.

The visit to London took place from February 22 - 26. On the morning of February 23 at the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality (such an organization exists in London) the discussion of the results of the realization of the project on interaction between ethnic associations and the police forces of the Russian regions began. One person from each delegation participated. After the participants received information on how things stand on the given issue in the Moscow, Sverdlosk, and Samara Regions and the Krasnodar Territory, we wanted to find out how similar problems are resolved in the United Kingdom.

The first step in this direction was to familiarize ourselves with the work of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality. The annual budget of the Greenwich Center is almost 400,000 Sterling Pounds. The Center receives a large portion of this money from state organizations. What differentiates the Greenwich Center from our Houses of Ethnic Cultures is that they do not perform songs and folk dances. The Center solves the problems that representatives of the ethnic minorities living in Greenwich encounter. It is of some use to mention that the Greenwich Center is a not-for profit organization. The strength and the opportunities of the Greenwich Center were underlined in our meetings in the city hall and the police-office of the Greenwich District. The mayor of the district told us that our delegation is the second one from Russia that he has welcomed during his time in office. He said that he is very happy that delegations are coming to Great Britain and expressed his hopes that the connections between our countries will continue to improve. He gave the Greenwich Center a lot of compliments and stressed the fact that the protection of ethnic minorities plays an important role in local politics. It surprised the participants when they found out that the mayor is elected by the deputies of the legislative assembly of the district for one year, and even the deputies are elected by the inhabitants of the regions every four years. Thus, the mayors of the districts of London simply do not have the time or the opportunity to use their duties for selfish ends. And for that we congratulate them. Following the invitation of the mayor, we visited the conference hall which has existed for more than 100 years. Our pictures with the mayor of Greenwich turned out very well.

The police department of the district was just as friendly in greeting us. The head of the department made a permanent impression on our ladies. He looked more similar to a Hollywood actor than a policeman. Quiet, intellegent, athletic, with a great sense of humor, he did not embody the stereotype of a guard. Our colonels gave him a police cap as a gift. They asked him to accept it, because at the moment there was just as much snow in Britain as in Russia. When he tried it on, loud laughter filled the whole building. In exchange, the head of the department gave us the famous English police helmets as presents.

To become a policeman in London one has to study almost four months. Then there is a period of probation of over two years, when the young servant of the people periodically attends all kinds of training, including how to work with representatives of ethnic minorities. At the same time he receives a monthly salary of almost 2,000 Sterling Pounds, which is almost 3,000 US-Dollars. That is a quite decent income, even for London. Two other officers, who also attended the meeting, receive a monthly salary of almost 4,000 and 5,000 Sterling Pounds.

And I get a little bit more, joked the head of the Greenwich Police Department. In Great Britain being a policeman is not only a well paid profession, but it is also a prestigious one. The population trusts and helps the police. Things are different in Russia. At the same time, the main task of the police is to protect the citizens, all citizens, regardless of their race, sex and religious beliefs. Our friends from the Greenwich Center told us that according to statistics, dark-complexioned Britons are stopped by the police more often than white Britons. But maybe dark-complexioned people commit more crimes? And do the police have any statistic that shows how many crimes a certain group commits? These questions really disturbed our colonels. It never occurred to them that the identification of a criminal based on his or her ethnicity is one of the most obvious forms of racism. In Russia, things are the other way around. When you open a newspaper or watch TV, you will immediately see a story about how two Caucasians yesterday In Russia the word fascism is used only in relation to fascist Germany and racism only in connection with South Africa in the middle of the 20th century. Of course, in Russia there are a lot of wonderful things, which must be protected and developed. But just because Russia abandoned the arsheen and the pound and converted to the metric system did not mean that people became worse off. If we really want Russia to build a civil society someday, then we have to begin to adhere to international standards. In Great Britain it is just as improper to be a racist as it is to point out the nationality of a criminal. In Britain they have understood for a long time that there is no criminal nationality or race.

The local police force showed us cells for preliminary arrest, the controllers office and the office in which the first interrogation of the detainees takes place. It surprised us that the detainees receive the same food as the policemen. And can the arrested persons smoke? Yes, said the attending sergeant with a cunning smile. If we happen to want them to smoke.

No less interesting was our visit to the world-famous Scotland-Yard. We should mention that no one checked our passports anywhere. Furthermore, in the foyer of Scotland Yard in line we could see a sign which said, Welcome to Scotland-Yard. Could you imagine something similar in the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs in Moscow? We met with the head of the Department of Diversity of Scotland Yard. There they have a subdivision, which was founded in order to cooperate effectively with ethnic and religious minorities, women and homosexuals. The head of the department told us that they would serve us coffee and tea, since it was very cold outside and we obviously needed something hot to drink. His words did not elicit smiles from our delegation, since in Russian this term means something different.

Scotland Yard carries out strategic work in order to protect the security of its citizens. In particular, all homicide cases are investigated here. The inspector told us how ten years ago a young black boy, Steven Laurence, died from a policemans bullet. A huge wave of protests arose in Great Britain. Not only black citizens protested, but also white people. As a result, the government, as well as the police decisively changed their strategies.

Ashot Airapetian, director of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, decided to move beyond the usual question on ethnic criminality in London.

Great Britain is a country which very much respects traditions. he began from far away. Old buildings, old street names, and the old currency have been preserved. But the demographic situation is rapidly changing. Are you not afraid that at some time in London white Englishmen will become a minority?
The politicians will determine the countrys development, the commissioner answered democratically.

In our country, the police do not deal with politics. This is also a tradition. Our task is to provide safety for citizens. For all! That the authorities of Great Britain really try to secure the equality of all citizens is evidently demonstrated by the photos shown on this occasion: a black guardsman of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and a signboard in the foyer of the Ministry for Internal Affairs which is gently named the Home Office. In fact it is a Home. Its task, as is written on the signboard, is to form a safe and tolerant society in the country.

In Great Britain there are two state bodies that do not exist in Russia. They are the Capital Administration of the Police and the Commission for Racial Equality. Our British partners have organized meetings in both of these establishments. In the Capital Administration of the Police, head Len Duvall received us. We have to admit that Mr. Duvall looks like a native of the Caucasus. But this never held him back from holding a very important position in an official establishment whose primary task is control over police activities. According to Len Duvall, the organization studies all circumstances connected with police work. It is interesting that in Great Britain, the income and expenditures of high-ranking police officials are strictly supervised, and thus policemen who have constructed magnificent private residences or have bought extremely expensive cars, immediately find themselves in the sights of fundamental supervising bodies. As Duvall said, the department is interested in the quality of the work of the police and of ethnic minorities, and they follow up on ethnic minorities as well as all the other inhabitants of London to make sure that they are satisfied with police work.

The Commission for Racial Equality was founded for the realization of the law, On Racial Equality in the United Kingdom. This law outlines in detail why and how it is necessary to provide equality in the United Kingdom for all citizens of the country. And for this important state act to go from an idea on paper to reality, an executive organ has been created by the government - the Commission for Racial Equality. Member of the Commission Alexander Goldberg met us wearing a traditional Jewish yarmulke. 200 people of different nationalities and religions work in the Commission - all are high-ranking experts. Every year the Commission allots 5 million pounds in the form of grants for projects of every kind for the support of racial equality in the country. Any citizen of the country can turn to the Commission with a complaint that his rights have been infringed on racial or ethnic grounds. Then the Commission carries out an inquiry of the facts and if it finds that evidence of discrimination is confirmed, then the organization, be it public or private, awaits official notification about the necessity of restoring fairness or compensation of moral damages. In particular, the Commission watches that 60 state organizations of the United Kingdom do not allow any infringements in the sphere of racial equality. Included in these organizations are the police.
What will happen to police officers that make racist statements? Ashot Airapetian asked Goldberg.
We will check the evidence, he answered.
And if the evidence is confirmed?
He will be dismissed!

Participants of the seminar also met with representatives of ethnic associations of London, from African Public Health and Development and East Anglia Gypsy Council. Moreover, we had meetings with the heads of the Department of Social Security and the Department of Social Welfare of the region of Greenwich, and with former policemen, now experts of the Greenwich Council on Racial Equality, Chris Tailor and Tony Cross. But we spent most of our time in the office of the Greenwich Council in the company of its head, Makhan Bajwa, an immigrant from India and William Ekinu from Uganda.

Yet another peculiarity of the United Kingdom and of all Europe - here, almost no one prepares food at home. All the lunches and dinners are held in various restaurants, cafes and pubs. Participants of the seminar were able to evaluate the virtues of English, Chinese, Punjabi, and African restaurants. As is known, nothing brings people closer together than a meal. Of course, it is impossible to get to know London in three days. But we were in the center of London and were able to see the Parliament building, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey etc.

On February 25th, the participants of the seminar gathered together at the Greenwich Council for the last session of the seminar. We spoke about the results of the London trip. Upon the request of Ashot Airapetian, the participants noted their impressions and stated that they liked the cooperation of the police and ethnic associations. Victoria Shukhat, trainer of the Center for Interethnic Cooperation, wrote down all the statements. Then she read out the whole list, and if any statement raised any objections, it was crossed out. Thus, statements which the whole group supported were distinguished. Victoria had to strike out a fourth of the list. Hence, our group, made up of such different people, highly appreciated the results of the trip to London. But that is not all. In London we agreed that under the aegis of the Ministry on Regional Development we will hold a round-table where the participants of the London seminar will talk about their impressions of the heads of ethnic communities, members of state structures and the police. So our work will continue.


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