- REUTERS/Neil Hall
Reports of xenophobic and racist incidents have surfaced across the UK since the country’s vote to leave the EU in a referendum on June 23.
Police have seen a 57% increase in reports to True Vision, the UK’s online hate-crime reporting website.
Numerous other organizations, however, receive and record hate crime reports in the UK.
The trend follows other international and national events and usually returns to normal “relatively quickly,” according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for hate crime, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.
“It’s no coincidence this has come off the back of the EU vote,” a police source told The Guardian. Police decried a recent incident on a Manchester tram as a “disgusting display of abuse, which quite frankly has no place in society.”
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Service, the governing body of forces in Greater London, has seen no increase in reported hate crimes, but the organization “remain[s] highly aware that certain events can spur intolerance, hate, or extremism,” Commander Mak Chishty, who leads community engagement for MPS, said in a statement provided to Business Insider.
Regardless of difficulty pinpointing the increased frequency, one woman started a Facebook album called “Worrying Signs” to document discriminatory tweets, stories, and images since the referendum. People also began using the hashtag #PostRefRacism on Twitter to highlight similar occurrences, Al Jazeera noted.
The Muslim Council of Britain also documented numerous reports of Muslims being told to “go home” and similar exclusionary taunts – more than 100, according to the BBC.
“Now we are witnessing the shocking extent of this with reports around the country of hate speech and minorities being targeted,” said Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the organization.
Aside from Islamophobia linked to resettling refugees from the Syrian civil war, Polish immigrants have faced much of the negative sentiments. Approximately 800,000 Poles live in the UK, making the group one of the top three minorities in the region, according to Al Jazeera.
In Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, a town in southeastern England, cards that read “Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin,” in both Polish and English, were distributed to people’s mailboxes. Police have urged anyone with information to come forward, The Independent reported.
these cards have actually been put through letter boxes of Polish families in Huntingdon today. I could weep pic.twitter.com/P3maK1Vasf
— fencelt (@howgilb) June 25, 2016
The Polish Embassy in London issued a statement of shock on Monday and asked people to report incidents.
— Polish Embassy UK (@PolishEmbassyUK) June 27, 2016
‘A disgusting display of abuse’
Much of the situation seems to stem from the wrong belief that leaving the EU would force immigrants to leave the UK.
In the video below, for example, posted by Channel 4 News, an apparently inebriated man on a Manchester tram repeatedly told another man to “get deported.” Police called the incident a “disgusting display of abuse, which quite frankly has no place in society.”
A screenshot of a tweet posted in the “Worrying Signs” Facebook album shows a man wearing a T-shirt that reads “Yes! We won! Now send them back.”
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) June 25, 2016
Immigrants from within the EU already in the UK would likely be allowed to remain, but if the government doesn’t keep the EU’s freedom of movement law, incoming immigrants could be affected.
Recently elected London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim to hold the position, declared “zero tolerance” on Monday for crimes against minorities and immigrants, and he asked police to remain vigilant.
Soon-to-resign UK Prime Minister David Cameron also condemned the behavior, calling graffiti on a Polish community center “despicable.” Someone had painted the word “out” in large, yellow letters, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The ‘breaking point’
Anti-immigrant and nationalist sentiments have simmered underneath economic motivations for the Brexit since long before the referendum.
As neoconservative thinker and senior editor for The Atlantic David Frum wrote:
“The force that turned Britain away from the European Union was the greatest mass migration since perhaps the Anglo-Saxon invasion. 630,000 foreign nationals settled in Britain in the single year 2015. Britain’s population has grown from 57 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2015, despite a native birth rate that’s now below replacement. On Britain’s present course, the population would top 70 million within another decade, half of that growth immigration-driven.”
Several days before the vote, Brexit leader Nigel Farage unveiled a billboard showing a long queue of refugees and the words “breaking point” in red capital letters, with “the EU has failed us all” underneath. Many described the advertisement as racist propaganda.
- REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
The UK, however, has experienced an influx of refugee applications well below the EU average, according to Eurostat, especially when compared with Germany, whose chancellor, Angela Merkel, has adopted an open-door policy.
Conservative Tory member and Brexit campaigner Dan Hannan clashed with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday when she asked if he was concerned about “post-Brexit hate crimes.”
“Oh, come on. That’s our fault? That is an outrageous question … In every society you have some racist idiots. But for you to suggest without any connections that this is somehow connected, that there were no racists in Britain before.”