The chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, has said that a form of "passive apartheid" exists in the British countryside.
The countryside is seen as a no-go area for ethnic minorities he said.
In many country areas fewer than one in a hundred people are from ethnic minorities, compared with a national average of one in 12.
Mr Phillips acknowledged that ethnic minorities may have an exaggerated fear of rural hostility.
Do you agree with Mr Phillips? Is the British countryside a no-go area for ethnic minorities? Would you like to see more ethnic diversity in the countryside? Have you experienced rural hostility?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
My parents ensured I was enrolled in my north Yorkshire primary school with my 'English' name - Jane - just in case I encountered any prejudice in our small community. As it turned out, my family felt as much of a part of village life as the locals, and my mother's spring-rolls were a constant hit at the coffee mornings and cake sales.
Jane-Suilin Lavelle, Lancaster, Lancashire
A non-issue curiously tossed into the media environment at the same time as the ISG report. 'Passive apartheid' shame on you Trevor Phillips your suggestion will be distasteful to the vast majority rural people but which may get some in New Labour nodding sagely. Have you ever visited a Welsh Country Pub? All visitors are treated with scepticism are locals therefore racists? Maybe but I suspect they are a tight-knit, private and reserved communities with their own local culture, but it appears that even that is becoming a crime.
Trevor Phillips is talking rot. I admit I was a little nervous when I moved into a small country town, but the reception I received was wonderful. I have never been happier or experienced less hostility, which has led me to realise that much of the race-related aggro I got in London was related to big city tensions rather than real attitudes. Travelling in France, however, I found there many village shops that simply refused to serve me because of my colour. Perhaps Mr Phillips took a wrong turn at Dover?
J J Khan, Rothwell, UK
I think a lot of people haven't bothered to read what he actually said. He made it quite clear he wasn't blaming the country dwellers for the situation. He was just pointing out the fact that few people from ethnic minorities live or visit the countryside.
I have lived in the UK since age 11 after moving from Kenya. I consider it my home and consider myself a total Briton; I have lived in the countryside as a youngster and never encountered what Mr. Phillips is talking about. Certainly there were folks who were curious and ill-informed about Kenya, India, but one will find that where ever they go in the world in rural communities. Most ethnic minorities prefer to live in urban area quite simply because they prefer to live near others of same background, easier to find a job, they are used to living in urban areas in their home country, easier to find ethnic groceries in urban areas, and urban areas have bigger airports so that relatives visiting from native countries find it easier to travel to meet them and vice versa. Mr. Phillips should really do better research before creating an issue where one may not exist. Furthermore, I believe that if one is unhappy about living in the UK or any country for that matter, then one should try an find another country more to their liking. In this day and age of globalization, it is easier to do that than ever before.
I do not agree with Mr Phillips at all. Firstly, ethnic minorities are just that, minorities. Therefore there aren't going to be large black or Asian populations in rural districts. Also, those who come into the UK are generally looking for (a) work and (b) cheaper housing. Neither is prolific in the countryside.
Andrew Beacham, Bath, UK
I think that it is an excellent idea to encourage people to understand rural life and communities more. It is a great shame though that this has a race focus on it. To my mind the more people who live in cities that have an appreciation of rural life the better. To understand how the countryside operates and what issues are faced here is key in the fight to help protect what we have.
Paul Brandwood, Exmoor, UK
Think about British ex-pats living in the Costa del Sol. The ex-pats mostly do not integrate with the rest of the Spanish society; they only hang about with other ex-pats in small communities. Does that make the Spanish guilty of apartheid or would you say it is the ex-pats wanting to stay with their own kind. Apply this metaphor to Mr Phillips' argument and think how idiotic the advisers to our government really are. Can you work out how Mr Phillips can justify a salary with this rubbish?
Duncan McDonald, Salisbury, UK
Being a member of the Asian community I would not feel very comfortable living in a village. Racism is still rife in this country and things are bad enough in the cities with many locals staring at you on the tubes and buses as if you have landed from another planet. What's worse is that because I stand out I always attract the most hostile and weirdest members of the indigenous population. Whilst I would love to live in the country I think the prospect is still a long way off.
What a load of nonsense! Ethnic minorities don't want to go to the countryside, probably as much as country folk don't want to go into urban ethnic minority areas.
As a black woman, who was born and raised in Cornwall, England. I would say that the experiences of racism/"passive apartheid" have been no different then those that I have experienced in other areas of the globe I have lived/worked/visited (America excluded). Trevor Phillips must highlight the issues of passive apartheid to the country as a whole and not highlight specific areas (of which it is obvious he has very little experience).
Proud to be Cornish, Montreal
Many rural communities value their traditional ways, and are wary of things being changed or diluted by the influx of outsiders, regardless of their ethnic background. My mother, who is white and was born in London, moved to Devon some 20 years ago, but still has some trouble being accepted. Whether such non-acceptance of outsiders is justifiable or not is a difficult question, but to suggest that it is linked to racism is clearly ludicrous.
Martin Pearson, Berkshire, UK
Once again Phillips is equating "ethnic minority" with 'black/Asian', which is false. I'm an Anglo-Australian living in rural Scotland - which makes me an ethnic minority here just as much as if I was dark-skinned. And believe me, us 'non-natives' get just as much hostility from the locals as we would if we were of a different skin colour.
David Moran, Nr. Aberdeen, Scotland
There's only one thing that this statement proves - that it is time to disband meaningless quangos like the CRE. As a part of the "Race Relations Industry" Trevor Phillips has a vested interest in finding discourse where there is none, creating conflict where there is harmony. In a country where everyone is equal, a body like the CRE can only be divisive.
Almost every weekend my partner and I travel to the Lake District and climb a mountain. In the years we've been doing this, not once have I seen anything but white faces. It's not a matter of the countryside being 'no-go' areas but one of them being 'not-go' areas. Why minorities do not visit or spend time doing outdoor pursuits is something they must address, but I look forwards to the day I meet one on top a Cumbrian mountain enjoying the exercise and view as much as my partner and I do.
Chris Byers, Preston, UK
My wife (who's Japanese) and I travelled round the UK on various occasions. Each time, we suffered racist reactions from certain people. Whilst most people were welcoming, friendly and interested in my wife and her culture, there were others who were rude, insulting, and obnoxious. Some people did not say anything, but simply got up and moved away to other tables in cafes.
Others would mutter under their breath about WWII, and some would make remarks (to each other, not to our faces, but loud enough to be overheard) about "nips" and "chinkies". We were refused service in one pub in Canterbury. All of these negative reactions came from people aged around 60 or over, and all of the positive reactions came from younger people. I was appalled and deeply ashamed of my country, and I can't wait for these attitudes to die along with the people who hold them.
Rob, London, UK
Well Well! Hit a raw nerve has he? Nowhere does Mr Phillips say that countryside people are racist. In fact what he is saying is that people from the ethnic minority community seem to have an "exaggerated" fear of rural hostility. It is for us from the ethnic minority community to prove our fears wrong. And whoever thinks racism is dead, ask the BNP.
I'm from a small town in Wales and, when I took my wife home for the first time, her presence doubled the number of black faces. There was curiosity; she was obviously not a local, but no hostility. On the contrary, most people wanted to say, "Bore da", and have a chat - that's "Good morning" to you foreigners. Trevor needs to get a grip and stop seeing what isn't there.
If Trevor Phillips really wants to deal with passive apartheid try looking closer to home, within the urban areas. Try being white and getting served in pubs and clubs around Brixton and Elephant and Castle, some pubs are just no go. Try being white and shopping in ethnic shops for spices in areas of Southall, with the constant babble of chatter and pointing about you from the ignorant, and extremely rude, workers in the shop. Why do you think whites are vacating the urban areas?
Robert, Newbury, Berkshire
"Ethnic minorities may have an exaggerated fear of rural hostility." Yes, and I (and plenty of others) have a fear of black and Asian urban ghettos. But the BBC won't publish a comment like this. Too near the truth but not politically correct enough.
Realist white, UK
It is sad that Mr Phillips has contributed to the Countryside debate in this way. Like the actions of recent protestors it adds to a stereotype perception of rurality that simple is not true. It is no different to saying that people in urban areas wear odd socks - meaningless. At best these comments are ill judged.
Jonathan Durnin, Millom, Cumbria
I understand the lack of ethnic minorities in rural areas as there is a well settled environment by families in these areas for hundreds of years. Whole families are raised to carry on the family businesses and that is the way it is. It could also be accredited to the fact of integration in the UK. I don't believe apartheid is even relevant! People are "modern living" and if you are not from that area why are you there? May I ask how many guest houses are run and indeed visited by ethnic minorities ? Britain is beautiful no matter how much you have in your pocket.
Graeme, Morpeth Northumberland
Why is it that every time there are a disproportionate number of any one type in any one area it is automatically jumped on as 'racism'. Could it just be that, in common with the majority of white people in cities, black people feel that there aren't jobs for them in the country? Quite apart from this the number of holiday homes has pushed rural prices up and most people can't afford to buy there now, be they white, black, brown, purple or green.
Most country villages make any outsiders feel slightly unwelcome. And the border between 'us' and 'them' is very close to the outside of the village. Nothing to do with colour.
Well, I live in the countryside and I have to say that the number of ethnic minorities in London make me feel as though it's a no go area for me. Seems to me that if everyone stays where they are, the only person who will be unhappy is Trevor Phillips!
If minorities don't want to move to the country we can't force them to. In my experience country folk are a lot more helpful and social then their urban counterparts. I feel that if Mr Phillips is willing to use such an emotive word as "apartheid" to describe this split then he is doing his cause much more harm than good. If there are few minorities in the country it is due to their choice not to move away from the large cities and not "apartheid". Perhaps Mr Phillips should learn to think before he speaks in future before insulting a minority population (country folk).
John, Plymouth, Devon
Perhaps the people coming to this country have seen how poor the wages are in the countryside, or have had enough of the rural life where they come from. But this is a free country, and people live where they choose. When people arrive here they tend to stick to their ethnic groups, but over time they diversify into the community, this process has been going on for two thousand years, and will probably go on for the next two thousand, it's how England has evolved to what it is today, a true multi ethnic society.
Dave, Ramsgate, England
Living in NE rural Scotland I have to say that I know of nobody from an ethnic minority in this area apart from the English. I also think that if some members of an ethnic minority turned up here nobody would bat an eyelid. However if you want to go to an area which now exhibits a great deal of the qualities of apartheid try moving to the West Coast of Scotland or to the Islands and not speaking Gaelic!!
Race has nothing to do with it. Country folk are biased against everyone born outside their own village, even if they are tourist cash-cows.
As an ex-rural who moved to the big city, this is a bunch of bull! The British country folk are the salt of the earth and bend over backwards to be polite and respectful to all people. After all, is that not the British way?
Ann Lee, Houston, Britain in USA
Why not send a black man into the countryside and a white man into an area of London, populated mainly by black people. Then see who suffers most. By the way I'm not volunteering.
Jon, Sussex, UK
May one suggest that Mr Phillips gets a proper job.. On a farm maybe?
Jeff, Ironbridge, UK
Most ethnic minorities & most immigrants will head for the cities because it is perceived that there is where the work is.. It doesn't take Einstein to work that one out.
What absolute cobblers - people currently are at liberty to live in what area they choose. This allows the 6% of the total UK population who are classed as "ethnic non white" to either live huddled together in the cities or spread out in the countryside, the choice is theirs alone.
Douglas Prewer, Sandhurst, Berkshire
I am a white male townie who moved to rural Wiltshire with my family some 12 years ago. From my experience any hostility to outsiders from rural people would stem from an unwillingness to adapt on the part of newcomers. If you join in and become part of the community there is warmth and acceptance, irrespective of race or creed. Those who fail in country life are those who refuse to adapt to the rural culture and want to cling on to urban ways.
John Hays, Goatacre, Wilts, UK
First 'institutional' racism, now 'passive' racism; how many more sub-definitions do we need before we've managed to include everybody and every group in Britain. Perhaps the so-called ethnic minorities just don't like rural activities. Or, just think of it - perhaps they themselves are discriminating against rural dwellers - shock, horror! When are we going to stop this spiral downwards into abject stupidity, just to bolster someone's political dogma?
Paul B, Oxford, UK
The problem is economic. Rural areas tend to have high housing costs, low levels of public transport and other infrastructure and relatively few local employment opportunities. These affect existing inhabitants and any potential incomer equally.
David Anderson, Wakefield, West Yorkshire
I am originally from the countryside in Scotland , and where I grew up there was no hostility towards any ethnic minority that moved to the area, on the other hand I now live in Ealing where racisms is a big issue but this is surprisingly from the minorities towards the whites in the area. I experienced this first had when I married my wife whose family originate from Pakistan they did and still do make it very obvious that they would be happier if (in there own words) I was at least an Arab.
Paul Mc , Ealing London
Oh for heavens sake... Whatever next. I was born and brought up in the country. In my village every outsider was viewed with total distrust and yes, often dislike. Get Real!
Pam Hunt, Cardiff, UK
I remember back in the 90's that racism was almost a thing of the past. Apart from a few die-hard skinhead groups (who will never change their ways), we were living in relative peace and harmony with immigrants. Since then, two things have happened: 1. Immigration has been allowed to reach ridiculous proportions, threatening our public services and welfare system. 2. People like Trevor Phillips and other pressure groups have constantly interfered, accusing anyone who does not like the situation of 'racism'. Is it any wonder there's resentment and distrust? The best thing that could happen is for the CRE to disappear.
I can't believe the intolerance of people here. If this is the attitude of people in rural areas, it's no wonder black people are cowering in fear from you. The government should raise council tax in areas which aren't sufficiently diversified - that would change your attitudes pretty quickly!
The exaggerated fear that Mr Phillips talks about is nothing in comparison to the real fear of physical violence and robbery that non-ethnic people feel when entering areas of high ethnic population such as Handsworth in Birmingham. As far as no-go areas are concerned, there are now more danger areas for white people than for the ethnic minorities who certainly would not get mugged just for daring to walk in the countryside.
Burton on Trent
Recent immigrants naturally gravitate to communities of those they connect with whom share their preferences for food, entertainment, and speak their own language. They don't initially feel comfortable venturing out into the countryside where they will feel isolated. It takes at least two generations before they are assimilated to the point where they will no longer have to feel a close connection with their origins and will freely invade whitelandia.
So, what exactly is the government supposed to do? Move some predetermined number of Indian, Pakistanis, West Indian and other minorities to these areas so they can say "Look, we are ethnically diverse!" Does it ever occur to these nitwits that maybe these people simply don't want to live in the countryside?
Desmond Prosper, Pyongtek, South Korea
What percentage of people from ethnic minority communities actually wish to live in the countryside and, from which minority communities do they originate? Might I suggest that the reason that most ethnic communities are urban is because of the value placed upon close family links; linguistic dependence and poverty and, access to goods and services. If there is an apartheid in the countryside, it is economic in nature and excludes most white people too!
Harry, Thanet UK
Perhaps they don't want to be in the country! A lot of people don't. I don't believe this is anything more than mischief of idle hands!
I am astonished at Trevor Phillips. At one stroke he has condemned every person living in the country side as racist and a practitioner, however passive, of apartheid.
Mr. R. C. Whitehand, Woking, UK
We English, one of the most tolerant groups on Earth, are becoming heartily sick of being accused of racism. Perhaps if the CRE and other 'equality' groups weren't constantly stirring the pot, racism would die away, just as it was beginning to do before all this hand-wringing started.
Andrew H, Manchester, England
It's all about perceived threat. In the past few years, the overall general fear of being the victim of crime (irrelevant of demographic) has risen at a disproportionately higher rate than the actual risk of being a victim of crime. In this age of social migration, it is only a matter of time before the mix is greater.
Why doesn't Mr Phillips set up a quota system for the countryside? This could cover both visitors to the countryside and, at a slightly lower figure, residents. Any reluctance to meet his targets should be enforced through a differential tax on backsliding areas.
David, Leeds UK
Guy Hammond you are a true ventriloquist. If you think that racism is dead, you should overhear some of the comments I hear! I live in Yorkshire currently but I'm a "Southerner" by birth. I always thought that Yorkshire was a nasty place. Full of bigots and small minds. When I moved up here a few years ago I had all my fears confirmed! The local press is full of letters from the public making nasty little comments about Blacks Asians and "Asylum Seekers". Racism Dead? Get a life! Open your ears!
People go and live largely where they want to. If you look at an ethnically concentrated area like say Southall and ask the population there whether they would prefer to live there or out in the countryside what is the answer? At the end of the day there is nothing stopping people moving.
DR, rural UK
I've lived in the country for 54 years and there a few things city dwellers need to understand. If you move into a village from outside it doesn't matter what colour, what ethnic group or whether you have two heads, you are you are considered an outsider. Outsiders are different, will be stared at and will experience some hostility. The worst thing anyone can do is to bring the city to the country and form separate groups. You have to assimilate, that means going along getting ignored for 20 years and then you will cease being an outsider and become new. It has nothing to do with race, ethnic group and chips on shoulders. I'm now new where I live.
Phil Davies, Evesham UK
I don't believe that it is due to a fear of hostility, but more of a fear of a different kind of living. In rural areas you are more or less faced with a life where everything isn't a phone call away or just around the corner. Also I believe minorities would rather stick in a "pack" for a false sense of security that they don't need. You are more likely to find less hostile people in rural areas than you would in urban areas any day of the week.
Paul Carter, Pittsburgh, PA USA
Out of 1200 pupils, my school has one person who is not white. Ofsted reports condemned the school for the lack of ethnic minorities, but in what capacity does the school control the ethnic make-up of the local area? Does the government effectively want to force people from their homes elsewhere in Britain to fill countryside-ethnic-percentage quotas?
Alice, Devon, UK
These are often very fragile economies and close-knit communities who's own culture is constantly under threat. There is a well-founded fear of change brought about by events outside their control. This is not to excuse racism, but to try to understand it's causes.
Anon, North Yorkshire
And let's start by effectively accusing all those who live outside the urban areas of racism. What a great way to encourage tolerance and diversity; well done Mr Philips!
Evan Price, UK
More left-wing rubbish! Because minorities don't move out into the country side it does not mean they are not welcome. It just takes one to make the first step for the rest to feel more confident to follow.
Mr Phillips is truly grasping at straws to justify his cushy job if he seriously expects anyone to believe there is apartheid here in Britain. I think it's time to declare racism solved and disband the CRE.
Guy Hammond, London, England
In an era when the rural areas have an increasing problem with all their young up and leaving for the city this seems an extremely pointless report. I wonder what this commission would say about the farmer who hired 100 black men to work his fields - I bet it wouldn't be thank you
Lee Byrnes, Scotland
So because ethnic minorities generally choose not to go and enjoy the countryside, people who live in the countryside are racist?
Scott, Somerset, UK
Once again Mr Phillips is claiming discrimination where it genuinely doesn't exist. It would be better if the media ignored these stories and focussed on real issues rather than non-stories like this one.
Just because certain areas aren't populated by certain groups why does that equate to apartheid? I guess if there are not a lot of gay people in my small village then it's obviously due to discrimination? Or I guess areas of Bradford are actively pushing out white people? Honestly, I wish some people would get a grip and realise that some things just are, there doesn't have to be a reason.
Stuart , Aberdeen, UK
Hearing Mr Phillips on Radio 4 this morning, he made some reasonable points about perceptions of the countryside in urban areas and almost ethnic minorities and vice versa. As he pointed out, many people from ethnic minorities often have a great deal in common with rural populations - from perhaps having come from rural areas themselves to having a shared sport in the form of cricket -.
But somehow this has not translated into people moving there. I don't believe he was trying to blame either side for the situation, but I've no doubt that some people will lap onto their soap boxes without having heard or read his comments in full. Please listen - everyone can gain from this debate.
Katherine, London, UK
It's simple: during the 50s and 60s when immigrants moved to Britain they went to the towns and cities where low skilled jobs were. The countryside held nothing that these people needed or wanted and it remains the same to this day
Ed, London UK
Sadly, ethnic minorities choose not to go to the countryside because they don't really wish to integrate. They move to the city where they can live in a community of people like themselves and live as if they've never left their country of origin. Change their attitudes about integrating into British society and the numbers will change.
Lisa, Birmingham, UK
Do this lot never stop complaining? The British public as a whole have been remarkably tolerant over the amount of people from other countries who have set up home on our shores whether legally or illegally. Remarks such as this just serve to get your back up and I have to say my first reaction was 'well, if you aren't happy with the number of white people you have to live with why on earth are you living in what is, after all, a white country'.
I hail from South Africa and realise the intense complexity that is apartheid. Maybe the ethnic minorities are staying in the cities as there are certainly more jobs there, plus their own cultural communities are settled there already. I don't think that one can say it's 'apartheid' but often just natural segregation of people based on background and culture - it's just not that black and white *no pun intended*
Jennifer, London, UK
So ethnic minorities are scared of going to the countryside? Oh come on, get a brain. If there is no diversity there, it's because the minorities choose not to go there.
Tom Franklin, London, UK
Having lived in a remote part of Norfolk for 18 months, I would say that the local people, although friendly, take a while to accept any newcomers, irrespective of race or colour. Trevor Phillips comments seem to be another attempt by labour to persecute the rural community.
Will Oakley, London UK
People will live where they want to live, no doubt an equally expensive survey will result in finding Cornwall has a lower then average concentration of Scots.
Paul Weaver, Twyford, Berks
As a black Londoner, I have no desire to live in the countryside. And I think most ethnic minorities have no wish to either. My view has nothing to do with hostility to ethnic minorities in the country, but more to do with that I like living in an urban area. I have lived in the country in the past and found no more hostility in those areas than what you find in the city. I didn't find it a no go area at all. But, that's my experience. And everyone's experience is different
Who cares? Does Mr Phillips feel he has to make up "burning issues" such as this to get into the press every couple of weeks? I've seen very few people from ethnic minorities purchasing food in my local Chinese takeaway - obviously the only explanation for this is "passive apartheid"!
What a lot of nonsense. If somebody from an ethnic minority wants to visit the countryside, I'm sure they would.
Rob Watson, Winchester, Hampshire
I live with my wife in a small countryside village and I don't find anything close to what Trevor has suggested. Having grown up in a small township in India (and subsequently in Bombay, Hong Kong, Houston and London), I find my life in my village as going back to the life I had in India. Quiet, simple and everyone knowing everyone. Some may find it intimidating and some don't.
Yes I have felt some prejudice from other villages, when I travelled to other parts of the country but that is understandable because that is all part of simple scepticism one can find in any village in any country. Lastly, it will be misguided to assume that their ignorance is only against blacks and Asians. It is towards anyone who doesn't belong to traditional British values.
I couldn't agree more with Trevor Phillips. 'Multicultural Britain' only exists in today's cities. Towns and villages make non-whites feel like total outsiders. Only education and exposure to people from other cultures will change this.
ML, London, England