UK: Hate crime ‘at record levels’ after Brexit vote

Figures collated by British news agency show big increase in attacks after Britons voted to leave the European Union.

Protesters against Brexit outside UK Supreme court
The government says it is working to help victims of hate crimes [Al Jazeera]

Hates crimes in the UK reached record levels following a June vote to leave the European Union, according to new figures collated by a British news agency.

The number of reported hate crimes for the July to September quarter rose from 10,793 in 2015 to 14,295 for the same period last year.

The report on Wednesday by the Press Association said 33 out of the UK’s 44 police forces had witnessed record numbers of such crimes.

Authorities in three areas recorded more than 1,000 incidents during the period.

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Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire police forces dealt with just over a 1,000 cases each, and London’s Metropolitan police force recorded 3,356 cases.

The British government said it was working on ways to tackle hate crime and provide help to its victims.

“Crime motivated by hostility and prejudice towards any group in society has no place whatsoever in a Britain that works for everyone,” a Home Office spokesman said.

“The action we are taking is working and more victims are finding the confidence to come forward to report these crimes.”

Anti-European attacks

Eastern European migrants to the UK were particularly affected in the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU, or Brexit.

Within days of the June 23 referendum, Polish communities reported a series of incidents, including the distribution of leaflets describing them as “vermin” and racist graffiti outside a cultural centre in London.

In September, a group of 20 youths attacked a Polish man In the northern English city of Leeds in, leaving him needing hospital treatment.

In another attack in the town of Harlow, near London, in December, a Polish man was beaten to death in a suspected hate crime attack after, his family members said, he was heard speaking the Polish language.

A spokesperson for the anti-racist activist group, Hope not Hate, said the referendum exposed hateful ideas already present in British society.

“We do need to expose those encouraging such hatred, whether on the political fringe or inside extreme right-wing groups. The authorities must ensure any perpetrators face the full force of the law,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s also imperative to sensibly discuss issues such as immigration away from hyperbole and invective.”

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The campaign to leave the EU was criticised for its heavy anti-immigration rhetoric, and the issue of immigration played a big part in the decision to leave the bloc.

Nigel Farage, the then leader of the anti-EU UK Independence party (UKIP), unveiled a poster featuring a queue of hundreds of refugees entering Europe with the caption “Breaking Point”.

The image was roundly condemned by British politicians, including members of his own party, and some activists on social media compared it to propaganda images used by the Nazis. 

Reacting to Wednesday’s report, Paul Nuttall, the current leader of UKIP, said the data, which was collected by the police forces themselves, was “fabricated”.

He told the Independent newspaper the figures were “overblown specifically to try to rubbish Brexit”. 

The Leave campaign was criticised for its focus on immigration [Jack Taylor/Getty Images]
The Leave campaign was criticised for its focus on immigration [Jack Taylor/Getty Images]
Source: Al Jazeera