A “wave” of hate crimes against European migrants could follow the start of Britain’s exit from the EU, a Polish community leader has warned.
Triggering Article 50 could act as a “flashpoint” for new xenophobic attacks, Joanna Mludzinska, Chair of the Polish Social and Cultural Association told MPs on Tuesday.
“Where those people who for whatever reason thought everything would be resolved by Brexit find that doesn’t miraculously happen... there might be another wave of response...”, Mludzinska told the Commons Home Affairs Committee.
“...’Why aren’t we getting what we wanted, and why are they still here?’”
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is the formal process for leaving the EU. The Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to trigger it by the end of March.
Hate crimes surged in the month following the UK’s vote to leave the EU last June, with a 41% increase in reports to the police, compared to the previous year.
The Home Office said in its latest report that the number of such crimes fell again in August but “remained at a higher level than prior to the EU referendum”.
“These increases fit the widely reported pattern of an increase in hate crime following the EU referendum”, it said.
In the year 2015-16 hate crime was up 19% on the previous year, according to the Home Office report. Of these, 79% were racially motivated, which includes xenophobia.
A 15-year-old boy was charged last month with the manslaughter of a Polish man killed in Harlow.
Mludzinska said on Tuesday she feared hate crimes surrounding Brexit could top the spike which followed the referendum vote.
“So far we’ve just had the vote, we haven’t had Brexit”, she said.
“I think there may be another point when things get worse. When people don’t suddenly see a wonderful immediate betterment of their own lot.”
The Home Secretary Amber Rudd vowed in July to “stamp out” hate crime.
“Those who practise hatred send out a message that it’s OK to abuse and attack others because of their nationality, ethnicity or religious background. That it’s OK to disregard our shared values and promote the intolerance that causes enormous harm to communities and individuals”, she said.
“Well, I have a very clear message for them. We will not stand for it. Hatred has no place whatsoever in a 21st century Great Britain that works for everyone.”
A Home Office spokesperson said:
“The Home Secretary has been crystal clear that hatred has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone. The action this Government is taking is working and more victims are finding the confidence to come forward to report these crimes.
“Our hate crime laws are among the best in the world and our Hate Crime Action Plan sets out how we are further reducing hate crime, increasing reporting and improving support for victims.”