The flight of the white middle classes from the inner cities is accelerating, the Government’s race relations chief has said.
Trevor Phillips said so-called “white flight”—an American phenomenon now increasingly seen here—was deepening racial segregation.
Mr Phillips has warned in the past of the growing polarisation of the country along ethnic lines.
But his use of the emotive term “white flight” will fuel the controversy triggered by the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester.
He said last week some Muslim enclaves were “no-go areas” for Christians and there was a need for greater integration.
Mr Phillips, who chairs the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the Bishop was right to raise the issue because white families were moving out of areas with high ethnic minority populations.
Interviewed on Radio Four’s Today programme, he said: “There are areas in which there is no contact or very little contact between different ethnic and cultural groups.
“Nobody is putting up walls and gates but we all know that in virtually every big city there are places where different kinds of people feel uncomfortable, whether that is Asians in so-called white areas or white people in so-called black areas.”
He added: “We know that white flight is accelerating. That schools—we know this from studies done by Bristol University—are becoming more segregated than the areas they sit in. So there is a phenomenon we have to deal with and I think that the Bishop of Rochester was right to raise this.”
The term “white flight” was coined in 1960s America to describe the emergence of inner city ghettos.
However, Government ministers have preferred to refer to it as “churn” and to attribute the movement of people to house price fluctuations.
A survey conducted by the old Commission for Racial Equality in 2006 found that a quarter of Britons wanted to live in an all-white area.
The movement has been especially notable in London, which has always seen a big turnover of population, and is now witnessing unprecedented movement.
Last year, nearly 245,000 people left inner boroughs for the suburbs, rural areas, or new lives abroad.
The movement has a bigger impact in northern cities where communities already live “parallel lives”.
As a consequence they become “shut off” and vulnerable to political and religious extremism.
Research by Migrationwatch suggests movement within Britain is mainly from areas of high ethnic minority population to those with predominantly white populations.
Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, praised Mr Phillips for confronting the evidence of “white flight”.
“This is another courageous contribution from Trevor Phillips, who is clearly prepared to face the facts about the current strains in our society,” he said.
“We would add—although he does not—that massive levels of immigration are a significant factor in this.”