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Police on hate crime alert over post-Brexit vote 'racist incidents'

Published 27/06/2016

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has asked Scotland Yard to be extra vigilant for hate crimes after an increase in incidents was reported in the capital
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has asked Scotland Yard to be extra vigilant for hate crimes after an increase in incidents was reported in the capital

Police are on heightened alert for a spike in hate crime after a flurry of incidents sparked fears of a wave of racial abuse in the wake of the EU referendum.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan asked Scotland Yard - Britain's largest force - to be "extra vigilant" for any rise in cases.

It came as:

:: Poland's ambassador expressed shock at "xenophobic abuse" against the Polish community;

::David Cameron condemned incidents of abuse and hatred directed at migrants;

::The National Police Chiefs' Council revealed there was an increase of reports to an online hate crime reporting site between Thursday and Sunday compared to the corresponding period four weeks ago.

::Boris Johnson said he was "appalled" by reports of an increase in crimes of racism and xenophobia over the weekend.

Mr Khan called on Londoners to " pull together and rally behind this great city" and stressed it was "crucial" not to "demonise" the 1.5 million people in London who voted for Brexit.

"While I and millions of others disagreed with their decision, they took it for a variety of reasons and this shouldn't be used to accuse them of being xenophobic or racist," he said.

Cambridgeshire Police is investigating after cards reading "Leave the EU - no more Polish vermin" were discovered.

An 11-year-old boy named as Matteus, whose family moved to Britain from Poland three years ago, told the BBC he was going to school when he found a card containing the words on Friday.

The boy's father Tomek said: "I live in this country, I pay any taxes. My home is now this country. I do not understand this situation."

Scotland Yard is investigating a hate crime incident after offensive graffiti was daubed on the front of a Polish Social and Cultural Association in Ravenscourt Park, west London.

The force said the single male suspect involved was captured on CCTV at the scene.

It shows him approaching the location on a pedal cycle and stopping outside, before he is seen to spray yellow graffiti on the doors of the community centre. He then makes off on his bike.

High visibility foot patrols have been stepped up in the area.

Polish ambassador to Britain Witold Sobkow said: "We are shocked and deeply concerned by the recent incidents of xenophobic abuse directed against the Polish community and other UK residents of migrant heritage."

Other incidents were reported on social media and a hashtag of #PostRefRacism was being used on Twitter.

One user, James Titcombe, said: "Daughter tells me someone wrote '(Child's name) go back to Romania' on the wall in the girls toilets at School today."

The NPCC said there were 85 reports made to True Vision, an online hate crime reporting site, between Thursday and Sunday - a rise of 57% compared to the 54 made on the corresponding four days four weeks ago.

The organisation said the figures only take into account reports made through one mechanism and should not be read as a national increase in hate crime of 57%.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, national lead for hate crime, said: "At the national level, the vast majority of people are continuing to go about their lives in safety and security and there have been no major spikes in tensions reported.

"However, we are seeing an increase in reports of hate crime incidents to True Vision.

"T his is similar to the trends following other major national or international events. In previous instances, crime levels returned to normal relatively quickly but we are monitoring the situation closely."

Immigration was a central theme in the build-up to the referendum.

Labour MP Jack Dromey said: "I am seeing profoundly disturbing evidence of a wave of racial abuse and attacks because of how immigration was handled in the Referendum campaign.

"The simple truth is that Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage played the race and immigration card because the Brexit campaign could not win the economic and security arguments."

Mr Johnson said that there was "no way" that EU nationals currently in the UK would lose their right to live and work here because of the referendum result.

"Hate crime of any kind is inexcusable and must be met with the full force of the law," he said. "Britain is an open, tolerant and friendly society that welcomes people from across the globe.

"That spirit of openness and diversity must never change and will never change. The actions of a bigoted minority will not be tolerated."

Karen Bradley, the minister for preventing abuse, exploitation and crime, said: "Crime motivated by hatred or hostility towards someone because of who they are or their religious beliefs is absolutely deplorable and will not be tolerated.

"We are doing everything we can to eradicate it and already have in place one of the strongest legislative frameworks in the world to protect communities from hostility, violence and bigotry.

"The Government is working closely with communities to increase reporting and increase confidence that their concerns about hate crime will be taken seriously by the police and courts.

"We are also doing more to understand the nature of hate crime, which is why since April, the police have begun to provide a breakdown of recorded religion-based hate crime data.

"Nobody in this country should live in fear because of who they are and we would urge anyone who experiences or witnesses a hate crime to report it to the police."

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