Hate crimes in the UK involving racial and religious discrimination have spiked at an unprecedented rate since last year’s British referendum to leave the European Union, raising concerns that minority groups feel “more vulnerable than ever.”
Police figures obtained by The Independent through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests show hate crimes, particularly against Muslims, surged by 23 percent in the 11 months after the Brexit vote, compared with the same period the previous year, the highest increase ever recorded.
Faith groups and organizations representing foreign nationalities have called on the government to take urgent action to review its response to such reports.
Eleven of the 32 police departments in England and Wales saw reports of hate incidents increase by more than 40 percent last year, with several regions including Kent, Nottinghamshire and Gwent soaring by more than 50 percent.
The record figures confirm previous reports that the Brexit vote on June 23 last year prompted a wave of hate crimes based on religion and ethnicity, and have led to calls for the UK government to “urgently” improve its response to such crimes.
Incidents reported in the past year have included a Muslim man and woman being squirted with acid, leaving them with life-changing injuries, a Muslim female being dragged along the pavement by her hijab, and two Polish men being attacked in the street, killing one of them.
“We have seen significant rises in hate incidents and crimes against Muslim communities in areas such as Greater Manchester, Kent, Liverpool and Wales,” Iman Atta, director of Tell MAMA told The Independent.
“The reality is that anti-Muslim hatred is no longer isolated to pockets of the United Kingdom, and it is a phenomenon that affects mainly visible Muslims at a street level, with the vast majority of victims being women and perpetrators male,” he added.
Nahella Ashraf, who is a member of campaign organization Stand Up To Racism, told The Independent she was racially assaulted and spat on by a stranger as she sat in a restaurant in London earlier this year.
Ashraf said she and her Muslim friends had noticed a significant rise in Islamophobia against them since the Brexit vote.
“I think we’ve seen more since the referendum, there’s no doubt about it. But definitely over the last couple of years we’ve become more cautious when we’re out and about,” she said.
Some human rights organizations have blamed the British government’s policies on immigration for inciting hate crimes after the Brexit vote.
“British people didn’t vote against EU citizens, but to leave the EU. Having said that, the refusal of the Prime Minister to guarantee the rights of EU citizens encouraged a small minorities of white disfranchised British to behave pathetically,” said Nicolas Hatton, co-founder of campaign group The3Million, which represents EU nationals in the UK.