Creating tensions within society
Over the last decade, Northern Ireland has become more diverse in terms of language, culture and religion.
At the same time, hate crime has been rising. Politicians, academics, statutory, voluntary, community sector organisations and the media are all keen to look at the causes and impacts of hate crime.
But most of the time there is a failure to look at the experiences of victims, and particularly the special needs of victims of racist hate crime.
Hate crime is often a process rather than an event, and it can escalate in frequency and seriousness.
A crime that might normally have a minor impact becomes, with the hate element, an intimate and hurtful attack that can undermine the victims' quality of life and self-esteem.
By its nature, hate crime is committed not merely against the immediate victim or their property, but against the entire community or group he or she belongs to.
This raises feelings of insecurity within the group.
As a consequence, hate crimes revive old – or serve to create new – bias, prejudice and negative stereotyping of others. It also creates cycles of mistrust and tension within society.
Patrick Yu is executive director of NI Council for Ethnic Minorities