Matthew Weaver and Sandra Laville
Monday 19 September 2016 02.05 EDT
Monday 19 September 2016 02.05 EDT
European embassies in Britain have logged dozens of incidents of suspected hate crime and abuse against their citizens since the vote to leave the European Union, according to figures obtained by the Guardian.
The vast majority of xenophobic incidents involved citizens from eastern European countries, with more attacks against Poles than all the other nationalities put together, the survey of EU embassies in London revealed.
The Polish consular service in London, Manchester and Edinburgh has logged 31 incidents of reported hate crime since 23 June, including eight attacks in the past three weeks.
They include the killing of Arkadiusz Jóźwik in Harlow, in an apparently unprovoked attack that is being treated by police as a possible hate crime. Five 15-year-old boys and one 16-year-old boy, all from Harlow, were arrested on suspicion of murdering Jóźwik and bailed until 7 October pending further inquiries. A second Polish man survived the attack.
The Guardian contacted the London embassies of all 27 EU member states. Of the 17 embassies that replied, almost half reported a rise in incidents of xenophobic abuse in the 12 weeks since the EU referendum. Between them, there were 60 incidents logged, including shots fired at a Lithuanian home in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, this month, an arson attack on a Romanian shop in Norwich in July and a break-in at a home in Nottingham in the immediate aftermath of the vote when a Latvian family were called “fucking immigrants” and told to leave the UK.
The bulk of the attacks were against Poles or people mistaken for Poles. A Finnish mother was told “Poles go home” when she was overheard talking to her children, according to the Finnish embassy in London. The embassies of western European countries that responded to the survey, including Spain, France and Germany, reported no post-referendum abuse against their citizens.
Arkady Rzegocki, the Polish ambassador to the UK, said he was “saddened by each and every incident”.
He added: “The Polish community is the largest national minority in the UK and, due to its visibility, may be statistically an easier target of xenophobic abuse. We recognise and appreciate the show of solidarity from the British public and the decisive steps taken by the British government and local authorities to resolve the problem. We need to work together to foster dialogue and mutual understanding between communities.”
The issue of hate crime in the wake of the vote was raised by London-based diplomats at a working lunch of the Nordic group of ambassadors on Tuesday. Latvia’s ambassador, Baiba Braže, who hosted the lunch, said: “It is a trend that we discussed. Our citizens have not experienced anything like this before the referendum.
“None of six incidents [involving Latvians] referred to the referendum, but there is maybe an atmosphere that is more permitting of unpleasant words and maybe actions. There shouldn’t be any discrimination and the Latvian community shouldn’t let it go unreported.”
Jon Burnett, a researcher at the Institute of Race Relations, said: “The upsurge in attacks against eastern Europeans should come as no surprise, given the way that they have been portrayed repeatedly as scroungers, cheats and, ultimately, threats. This depiction, which intensified in the build-up to the referendum, of course predated it. The hate crimes are a product of a politically constructed climate which has been years in the making.”
Braže welcomed the British government’s assurances that it would not tolerate such abuse. She said she had been encouraged by a fall in incidents involving Latvians since the immediate aftermath of the vote.
But the Polish embassy is troubled by a recent uptick in violence against Poles. Many of the 31 attacks it recorded took place in the days after the vote and, by early August, the embassy had detected a lull in incidents. But there has been a new spike in attacks, with eight incidents in the past three weeks, including attacks on three other Poles in Harlow and an allegedly racist attack on a Polish man in the Armley area of Leeds last Friday.
‘We’re going to put cameras up’
In the days after the Brexit vote, one Polish family in Plymouth felt the force of what appears to be a continuing spike in hate crimes across the country. An arson attack destroyed a shed at their home in Efford. The perpetrators left a note which read: “Go back to your country next be [sic] your family.”
Ewa Banaszek, 22, said the experience had stayed with her and her family but they were trying to get on with their lives and had received support from the local community. A crowdfunding appeal on behalf of the family raised £7,000.
“It has been overwhelming really,” said Banaszek, who works at a leisure centre in Plymouth. “When it happened, lots of local people left flowers outside the house and even now people are always checking if we are OK.
“The way the money was raised was really heartening. I told Hannah [Brotherstone], who arranged the fundraising, how overwhelmed we were. We now have the money and we are going to put cameras up around the house and this will help to pay for them.
“Since the incident we have tried to just get on with our life. The attack will always be in the back of my mind, but people have been supportive.”
Gareth Cuerden, hate crime manager for Victim Support in Wales, said a media focus on hate crime had led to a positive impact in encouraging victims to speak out.
“It has made people feel empowered to come forward and report what has happened to them. I think because of that we are getting a truer picture of the scale of hate crime,” he said. “Research shows that it is underreported – 50% of people wait until it gets more serious before they consider reporting and instead they tend to normalise incidents. But this attention on hate crime has made them feel able to report, which is a positive thing.”
Iolanda Viegas, a councillor for the Portuguese community in Wrexham, north Wales, said people had been heartened by the support they were receiving from their neighbours and from the police in the aftermath of the vote.
“The police have come along to tell us what to do if these incidents happen, they have talked to people about what a hate crime is and what they should do if they are targeted. And many people in the wider community are helping. At least we feel we are not alone and that someone will help us.”
Embassy breakdown of reported xenophobic incidents since the referendum
Poland 31 incidents reported as hate crimes. As well as the killing of Jóźwik they include eight assaults, including attacks on Polish men in Yeovil, St Ives and Leeds; seven attacks on Polish homes and businesses; and four cases of abusive graffiti, including messages scrawled on the front door of the Polish Cultural Association in Hammersmith, west London, and on a war memorial in Portsmouth. The 31 cases include six reports of fresh abuse in longstanding complaints about intimidation from neighbours that predate the referendum.
Lithuania 10 incidents of alleged hate crimes, five of which are being investigated by the police. They include a shooting at a Lithuanian home in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, on 5 September. Other incidents of alleged abuse have been reported in Peterborough, Kings Lynn and Boston, where many Lithuanians work as agricultural labourers. A spokesman said: “The Lithuanian community is very concerned [by] the surge of hate attacks after the referendum.”
Lithuania’s deputy foreign minister, Mantvydas Bekešius, has raised the issue with the Foreign Office. He said Lithuanian children in UK schools had been verbally abused not just by other pupils but by parents and even teachers since the referendum.
Latvia Six incidents of alleged xenophobic abuse and harassment, in Nottingham, London, Bristol, Wellingborough, Yorkshire and South Shields. The worst incident involved a break-in at a home in Nottingham where a Latvian family were branded “fucking immigrants” and told to leave the UK. The embassy also reported that Latvians had been refused service at a post office in London and at a mobile phone shop in Bristol in the days after the vote.
Sweden “Around five” incidents of verbal abuse. A spokesman said: “That’s a big increase, because we haven’t really seen abuse against Swedish citizens in recent memory. It is obviously linked to the referendum, because phrases like ‘go home’ were used.”
Finland Until the referendum, no Finns had been involved in xenophobic incidents. Since the vote, there have been four incidents, including a mother being told “Poles go home” when she was overheard speaking to her children.
Romania On 8 July, a Romanian shop in Norwich was torched in what Norfolk police are treating as a hate crime. The embassy also reported “a few” other xenophobic incidents, but declined to give details.
Bulgaria One “xenophobia-motivated” attack against a Bulgarian national in the UK. The embassy refused to provide details.
Hungary A “marginal number” of inquiries expressing fear after the referendum.
The embassies of Belgium, Greece, Germany, France, Denmark, Cyprus, Austria, Spain and Estonia reported no abuse of their citizens in the UK.
Of course those embassies reported no abuse of their citizens in the UK. Only countries with high immigration rates have been targeted. It's like here in the United States. Some group or person may target Muslims, Mexicans or Guatemalens, but when was the last time you heard of a Frenchman being the victim of a hate crime in this country? Only countries with high immigration rates are singled out for attacks.
This shows the Native British - and when I call them Native ABritish I mean Whites - have had enough of their country being invaded by foreigners who refuse to assimilate into British culture.
I've had enough of it too. It's time we did like our European brothers and sisters are doing: Fighting back!