Trevor Phillips, the chairman of Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, said that one of the causes of knife crime was a lack of integration for refugee children who had witnessed untold horrors in their early lives.
He said: “There is a very specific issue for some minority communities in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds. We have had a generation of refugee children who have come from unimaginable levels of violence, absolutely terrifying situations.
“We admit them—rightly—and then we plonk them in schools and we expect behave like everyone else. You look at the names of those who are involved, they come from Congo, they come from east Africa and so on.
“I don’t think anybody has been very keen on saying it. Let’s recognise what it is that is making it happen. It is not the fact that they are black but the fact that they have come from vicious, wartorn regions.”
The comments come amid widespread concern about knife crime. Figures earlier this summer revealed that one person is the victim of such a crime every four minutes and the Home Affairs Committee said that it will be launching an inquiry into knife crime in November.
Last year, teenage Angolan refugee Roberto Malasi was jailed for 30 years after he admitted stabbing to death an 18-year-old student and shooting dead a woman cradling a baby at a christening in a two week period.
The Old Bailey heard that the killings were the culmination of his horrific “upbringing of pitiless persecution” in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sir John Nutting QC, his defence lawyer, said that Malasi was influenced by witnessing scenes of daily violence in his early teens, including people being “hanged, shot and burned to death”.
Campaigners welcomed the comments from Mr Phillips. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch, said: “This is another courageous intervention from Trevor Phillips. If we are to tackle these problems we must have a frank analysis of where they stem from.
“The black African community now numbers 694,000 and has overtaken the black Caribbean group as a result of high net migration in recent years. This is a further consequence of our failure to control immigration.”
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, added: “Obviously knife crime is a much wider problem than just affecting immigrant communities. But what Trevor Phillips has illustrated a wider problem with integration. As well as having no control over the numbers the Government has failed to integrate new arrivals successfully.”
A spokesman from the Home Office said: “Violent crime is an extremely complex issue with many different drivers. With knife crime, we are concerned about the number of young people involved and the age of both victims and offenders.”
Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, said: “It appears as though there is some evidence that people who have experienced violence and a difficult upbringing continue this cycle of violence. But I don’t think that this is just refugees but also British children who are brought up surrounded by violence in many forms, from their parents, peers and exposure to violent films and games.”