Tales of smashed car windows, children told to go home, a surge in citizenship inquiries, a mosque which cancelled Eid prayers for hundreds out of fear, and a patient in a doctor’s surgery telling her Asian GP to leave the country.
Some may be classified as hate incidents rather than crimes. They maybe considered low level but still symptomatic of communities becoming polarised. They brought some 40-50 worried community representatives for an emergency meeting at the Polish centre on the edge of the self declared city of sanctuary, Birmingham. They are people at the sharp end, the ones who reach out to migrants communities. There’s a man from the Hungarian community, another from the Bosnian area, a Slovakian nurse, and a woman from the citizens advice bureau.
‘The fear is real, the tension is real”, says one East European.
“I’ve had many inquiries from families asking the question is it safe. They want to know if they should be making plans to go. We don’t have an answer”.
They are part of a network, spread across Birmingham, looking after many of the EU citizens, and refugees who came to work, marry, and educate their children. And sitting among them is a West Midlands police sergeant, who’s responsible for the community links, anti social behaviour and hate crime.
He reassures the audience that in the West Midlands, where the majority voted leave, there’s been no spike in hate crime…that figures for the week before June 24th were no different to the week after.
He then goes on to explain there are 57 hate crime reporting centres dotted across the UK’s second largest city. On the surface it’s impressive but then one representative points out that many no longer function. It’s an old list and some of the centres have changed hands and the new arrivals are not even aware of the role in recording complaints of abuse. One begins to questions whether the police really know what’s going on in the neighbourhoods. A woman from Handsworth then makes the point that all the police community support officers in her area have gone so there’s no one to go to report incidents of racial malevolence.
Today the National Police Chiefs Council reported hate crime across the UK had gone up 46% in the two weeks either side of the Brexit vote, compared to the same period last year. That’s 912 more reported incidents. But is that a true picture?
If the migrant network meeting is anything to go by, there are many who are staying silent or simply don’t know where to go for help.
Nazek Ramadan, from Migrant Voice, which is organising a series of meetings across the UK ‘it’s not just people feeling unwelcome, they are now really scared for their children. This is not acceptable.”