“I think Brexit definitely made [hate crime] worse. I’ve seen quite a few of my friends posting stories on Facebook about racial abuse. Racism has always existed but Brexit has given people an unjustified excuse to be racist.”
In the last two weeks, since Britain voted to leave the European Union in a historic EU referendum, police forces in England and Wales have recorded a rise in hate crime at 3,076 incidents. This figure is an increase of 47% from the previous year and has raised concerns about the post-Brexit atmosphere in the UK.
Between 24 July – the day of the referendum result – and 2 July, Scotland Yard recorded 599 incidents of hate crime. This means that there was an average of 67 offences reported per day since Brexit, an increase of 52% on the daily average.
Gabriella Ahmed, 22, was born in the United Kingdom but her father is from Pakistan and her mother is from Bangladesh. She spoke to the IPF about how her mixed race background has made her the perfect target for post-Brexit discrimination.
“The other day I was on a bus and accidentally bumped into an old guy. Before I could even apologise he called me a ‘f****** Paki’ and no one on the bus said anything. I wasn’t in the best shape after having some blood tests in town, so just gave him a dirty look and walked off.”
Gabriella, born in Rugby but brought up in Northampton, just graduated from the University of Nottingham with a BA in Politics and International Relations. She regards herself as being 100% British and, therefore, gets “really offended” when racist insults are hurled at her. Gabriella said:
“I work hard, I play my keep, I do as much as I can to respect the country I live in, and it just makes me feel so undervalued as a British citizen when I’m discriminated against.”
She continued: “I feel quite intimated to be frank. I’m basically a third generation into this country. We’ve been here since the 30s and it just makes me feel like I can’t even live in my own country without being scared someone is going to say something to me when I’m on my own.”
However, Gabriella admitted that she has also been subject to racist hate crime prior to Brexit. She told us how a few summers ago she got oranges pelted at her from a white van at Nottingham University and received a series of racial slurs. She also spoke of the abuse she received when wearing a traditional clothing from her parents’ countries.
“I wore a sari to a ball a few weeks ago. Coming back at night, walking home pretty late, some drunk men coming from a pub presumably thought they’d shout and jeer at me about my sari from the opposite side of the road – to which, again, I said nothing. I was on my own and didn’t want to cause more trouble.”
Despite having experienced racist abuse before the EU referendum as well, Gabriella does believe that Brexit has given British nationalists a further chance to discriminate against foreigners.
“I think Brexit definitely made [hate crime] worse. I’ve seen quite a few of my friends posting stories on Facebook about racial abuse. Individuals’ opinions and racism has always existed, but the lead up to and overall Brexit has given people – especially the generation that has grown up being discriminatory – like the elderly, an unjustified excuse to be racist.”
Selda Milla, 24, from London, is another victim of post-Brexit hate crime. She agreed that the referendum result was just the “excuse” people needed to express loud and clear their hatred towards immigrants, explaining the sudden rise in hate crime.
Selda experienced racial abuse while walking down a road with her one-year-old son. Her situation is peculiar as she is a white British female and nothing in her features indicates that she might be a migrant. She thinks the unprovoked attack might have been because of her curly hair.
“I was walking down the road with my son and a man was behind me with his dog. He started calling me a foreigner without even seeing my face! So I ignored him and continued to walk, but then he said, ‘£80,000 for your baby, you bloody foreigner’.
“I ignored again and he said, ‘You speak no English do you, you bloody foreigner’. I just ignored him and picked my son up and walked away as fast as possible. I didn’t want to respond, especially as I had my son with me. I didn’t want to take that risk.”
Selda believed Brexit was the excuse people needed to be “visibly racist”, but that some individuals had got the wrong idea of what it actually implied.
“Thanks to Brexit they don’t need to hide anymore. But it seems they have the wrong idea of Brexit. They see it as a justification to be racist, but really it’s a way for the country to be independent from the EU – not a means for people to be racist and for migrants to suddenly leave to their country.”
Following the incident, Selda is now considering leaving the country for a better and safer future for herself and her family.
She said: “Now I feel like I don’t belong here. I am always on guard when I go out and try to avoid going out alone with my son. I am upset by it and putting a plan B in place. In case this country stays this way I will probably move to Cyprus and build my life there. I don’t want my son faced with racism.”