Hate crimes in the UK on the rise after Brexit vote

Sunday 16/04/2017
Uncharted territory. A general view of the Shrublands area of Croydon i n London, on April 2. (Reuters)

London - The United Kingdom on March 29 formally trig­gered Article 50, starting a 2-year process that will lead to Britain leaving the European Union following last year’s Brexit referendum in which immigration was the standout is­sue. Two days later, a 17-year-old Iranian-Kurdish student, Reker Ahmed, was attacked by a group of up to 30 young people in south London and left fighting for his life.

“It is understood that the sus­pects asked the victim where he was from and when they estab­lished that he was an asylum seek­er they chased him and launched a brutal attack,” investigating Detec­tive Inspector Gary Castle said.

Thirteen people have been charged with a number of crimes, including violent disorder and ra­cially aggravated grievous bodily harm and police appealed to the public for information about others involved in the attack.

Tell MAMA, a UK-based project that records and measures anti- Muslim incidents, said there had been a visible increase in the num­ber of reported incidents, particu­larly targeting asylum seekers, in the past two years.

“Sadly, the targeting of people who are seeking refuge in the UK is nothing new but we have seen more cases over the last two years and particularly when the Brexit campaign started and after the mass migration of people from war-torn Syria and Iraq into Eu­rope,” Tell MAMA Director Iman Abou Atta told Britain’s Independ­ent newspaper.

“These are vulnerable people and the toxic debate around asy­lum seekers certainly does not help in dehumanising some of the most vulnerable in our society,” she add­ed.

Hate crimes recorded by the po­lice increased by up to 100% in the months following the Brexit vote, data by regional police forces indi­cated. Dorset saw more than a dou­bling of hate crimes reported from July-September 2016 compared to the April-June period. Ten regional police forces reported rises of 50% or more in hate crimes in the same period.

Tell MAMA announced that there had been a 326% rise in incidents against Muslims in 2015 over the previous year and called on the government and civil society or­ganisations to do more to address the issue.

“We stand in uncharted territory. The statistics paint a profoundly bleak picture of the explosion of anti-Muslim hate both online and on our streets, with visibly Muslim women being disproportionately targeted by cowardly hatemon­gers,” Tell MAMA Co-Chairman Shahid Malik said last year.

Refugees who come to Britain are increasingly fearful of disclosing their true identities due to “deep racism and scapegoating” follow­ing Brexit, the Independent said.

“The legitimacy that is being given to identifying people seeking asylum as part of the problem in our society means that people are feeling able to express racist ideas and in some instances launching physical attacks who might have previously self-controlled,” Rhetta Moran, a researcher working with displaced people, told the newspa­per.

Despite the increasing number of incidents, British politicians and civil society groups quickly con­demned the attack on Ahmed and called for greater tolerance.

British Prime Minister Theresa May branded the attack “absolutely abominable” and “completely un­acceptable” and voiced zero toler­ance on hate crime. London Mayor Sadiq Khan echoed the prime min­ister’s sentiments and highlighted the tolerance in the capital.

“Hate crime has no place in Lon­don, Britain or anywhere else. Our communities will not be divided by those who seek to sow hate and we will always take a zero-tolerance approach to hate crimes of any type,” he said.

A fundraiser was launched for Ahmed after the attack and more than $37,000 was raised in just a few days. “The public is giving a clear message that this young man is welcomed, loved and supported in the UK,” said Bridey Watson who set up the fundraiser.

“This will go a long way to ensur­ing he sees the best after witness­ing the very worst,” she added.