Hate Crime Against Poles and Others in the UK since Brexit Suggests the Racist Right Minority Have Slipped their Leash
Two specific incidents allegedly targeting Poles in the UK, along with a reported swell in general anti-immigrant sentiment, have led to feelings of unease among foreigners, condemnation from the Polish ambassador, and assurances from the British government. In the case of anti-EU Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party there has always been an undercurrent of xenophobia; for the real extremists further right, it has been more a relentless tidal wave of undisguised hate. Yet, while many Brits might have been swayed by immigration arguments ahead of the Brexit referendum, the incidents since the vote surely suggest that the old dogs (and their pups) of the hate brigade feel they have been given literal carte blanche to vent their peculiar pathologies, rather than indicating a more general malaise in British society.
The Polish Social and Cultural Association in London (POSK) had never reported problems with racism. That is until this weekend, when, just days after the UK’s Brexit referendum, staff found the words “Fuck you omp [sic]” scrawled in yellow paint across the front entrance doors of the London home. There have so far been no convincing suggestions about what that “omp [followed by a squiggle] might mean, but the calligraphic style suggests a vandal with an eye for neat handwriting. London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed to Inside-Poland.com that the incident is being investigated as a hate crime, and that “all lines of enquiry are open”.
Also in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, police in Cambridgeshire opened a hate crime investigation, after Poles received cards reading “go home Polish scum” and “no more Polish vermin”. The “Polish scum” slogan was written in Polish, in exactly the wording that a Google Translate test offered for an EN-PL translation of the phrase.
Many social media and digital news reports and comments have voiced support for Poles in the UK. Among those voices are those of Brexit supporters, many of whom note that even if they did agree with the need to control immigration, they distanced themselves from xenophobic sentiment and race hate crime.
Outgoing British prime minister David Cameron spoke to Poland’s PM Beata Szydło by telephone on June 27, to assure her that the situation involving British Poles was being taken seriously.
And Witold Soboków, the Polish ambassador to the UK 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. The Polish Embassy is in contact with relevant institutions, and local police are already investigating the two most widely reported cases in Hammersmith, London, and Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.
“At the same time, we would like to thank for all the messages of support and solidarity with the Polish community expressed by the British public.
“We call on all Polish nationals who fall victim of xenophobic abuse and on all witnesses to report such incidents to local authorities”.