It’s been just over a week since Britain voted and decided to leave the European Union. And while the drama plays out in Westminster of what this could potentially mean for the UK, what’s happening on the streets of Britain feels slightly scarier.
Since the results came out, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of hate crimes reported across the UK. I say “dramatic” because the figures don’t lie. In the one week post-Brexit, The National Police Chiefs’ Council has seen 331 hate crime incidents reported; the weekly average is usually 63. In Greater Manchester alone, police say they’ve seen a 50% rise in reports in the past week.
In my job as a journalist at the BBC Asian Network, I’ve heard from different generations of British South Asians telling us about the abuse they’ve endured, or the heightened sense of fear and paranoia they now feel. On our phone-in, we heard from the 25 year old Muslim man, born and bred in the UK, who had never experienced racism in his life. In the weekend immediately after Brexit, he was told to “Go back home,” at least seven or eight times. Then there was the Sikh father who told us his young school-age daughter had also been told to “Go back to where she came from.”
But it’s not just the Asian community that has been affected by racism and xenophobia post-Brexit; some Polish people have been targeted, too. In London, a Polish Community Centre was vandalised with xenophobic graffiti, and in Cambridgeshire, cards reading “No More Polish Vermin” were left outside schools and homes. Both are being investigated by the police.
But are these racist and xenophobic attitudes really a result of Brexit, or have they always existed?
Earlier this week, Tell MAMA, an anti-Muslim abuse monitoring group, published a report claiming Islamophobic attacks and abuse in the UK had risen by 326%. The people most likely to be targeted were Muslim women. Meanwhile, police say hate crime against ALL religions across England and Wales has risen by more than 40% in a year. But it’s important to remember that the increase could be due to a number of factors, including victims feeling more confident about reporting it.
Earlier this week, Tell MAMA, an anti-Muslim abuse monitoring group, published a report claiming Islamophobic attacks and abuse in the UK had risen by 326%. The people most likely to be targeted were Muslim women.
So, how do minorities feel post-Brexit? I interviewed young Muslim women about their perceptions on whether racism had actually got worse since the In/Out referendum.
They all agreed that extreme views were around long before Brexit, but that the views now felt “legitimized.” One 23 year old hijabi told me she had always felt the hostility on public transport whenever a terrorist attack had taken place, and that the post-Brexit feeling was “nothing new.” Another young Muslim women told me she tries to “not be visible,” but that “being white doesn’t save you anymore.” She said post-Brexit, every minority is a target, and that anyone with a foreign accent can be a victim. They all agreed that they believed the rhetoric used by the Leave campaign was very negative, specifically regarding immigration.
Some members of the Leave Party have since apologised for any hate crime incidents directly related to their campaign.
So is there a link between these incidents and the EU referendum votes? I’ve seen both sides of the argument on social media; victims of racism versus those arguing it doesn’t exist, and that the media (including me and my interview with young Muslim women) is being sensationalist and biased.
Either way, check out the Twitter hashtag #postrefracism and judge for yourself.
Written by Maaiysa Valli