Poles living in UK ‘scared to report hate crimes’
Fears over right to remain deter EU nationals from contacting police
7/1/2017- Poles living in Britain are so anxious about their right to remain after Brexit that they are failing to report hate crimes, according to the head of the Polish Social and Cultural Association. Joanna Młudzińska, who will give evidence on Tuesday to a home affairs select committee inquiry on the issue, said EU nationals felt so disenfranchised at being used as “pawns” in Brexit negotiations that they were opting to keep a low profile, rather than contact the authorities. The situation has become so acute that the London-based East European Resource Centre (EERC) is launching a pilot scheme to encourage EU nationals to report hate crimes. Młudzińska, who was born in London to Polish parents, said the government’s failure to clarify the standing of the UK’s 2.9 million EU citizens was “immoral” and was putting Polish and other EU migrants living in Britain in an impossible position.
“Very few people are reporting hate crimes at the moment. People are very scared, because often this occurs in the workplace and they are scared they might lose their job. Or it’s from a neighbour and they don’t want to cause more problems.” Młudzińska added: “They can’t turn around and say: ‘No, I don’t have to go home because your government has said I am allowed to stay.’ That puts you in a weaker position, doesn’t it? It makes people vulnerable. It makes them scared to stand up for themselves, to properly report things.” Last year the number of Polish-born UK residents was estimated at 831,000, making Poles the largest overseas-born group in the country and Polish the second most spoken language in England.
Various agencies have documented that incidents of hate crime soared in the aftermath of June’s EU referendum vote. On Friday, a 15-year-old boy appeared in Chelmsford youth court charged with the manslaughter of a Polish man who was attacked in Essex weeks after the UK voted to leave the EU. The death of Arkadiusz Jóźwik, 40, in Harlow was initially reported as a possible hate crime, becoming one of the most high-profile incidents of violence linked to the result of the EU referendum, although it is understood that prosecutors are not treating it as such. A number of sources recorded an increase in hate crime in the wake of the Brexit vote. Racist or religious abuse incidents recorded by police in England and Wales jumped 41% with 5,468 such crimes being logged in the month after the UK voted to quit the EU, according to the Home Office.
The uncertainty facing EU nationals living in Britain has been highlighted by a series of cases, including that of Dom Wolf, born in London to German parents, who told the Guardian on Thursday that he could not get a British passport unless he took a UK citizenship test because he could not prove his mother had been in England legally when she gave birth to him. The 32-year-old said he felt betrayed by the country in which he was born. His parents arrived in 1974, when his mother worked for the University of London as a lecturer and his father was self-employed. Other examples include Monique Hawkins, a Dutch woman who has lived in the UK for 24 years and has two children with her British husband, but has been told by the Home Office that she should make arrangements to leave the country after applying for citizenship.
Professor Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics at the University of Kent, said that, despite the apparent rise in hate crimes following the referendum, there were inherent difficulties in quantifying the issue. “The police measures for recording hate crime and how it is categorised have only recently become more sophisticated, so we’re not really able to say whether things are actually getting worse or better,” he said. “Historically, it’s been an area where we haven’t really invested much.” Goodwin, who will also appear before the select committee hearing, said that monitoring the far right was problematic because easily identifiable organisations, such as the EDL and BNP, had fractured into small, disparate factions. “This has made it harder for researchers, as well as the security services, to keep on top. There are 20 tiny groups and it’s quite difficult to know what they are doing and how,” he said.
© The Guardian.