An Eastern European family in Rugby finds dog excrement shoved through its mailbox. A Londoner nearly gets into a fight over drunken slurs shouted on a crowded subway car. A Polish teenager in Gloucestershire is taunted with threats of deportation at her high school.
In the wake of the June 23 vote to leave the European Union, Britain has seen a surge in xenophobia expressed in taunts, threats and worse. For many, foreign- and native-born, the UK has suddenly become much scarier place.
“Before Friday we lived in a tolerant society,” said Oana Gorcea, a 32-year-old Romanian who has lived in Britain since she was a teenager. “I’ve been here 13 years, but I’ve never felt like I had to hide where I came from. But from Friday, things completely changed.”
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Gorcea, who works for a multinational company in Rugby, about 85 miles (135 kilometers) northwest of London, said her street was being patrolled by “English commandos who walk around and try to intimidate non-white non-English people.” The talk of the neighborhood was the dog feces shoved through a local immigrant family’s mailbox.
Gorcea’s story and others like it have been echoing across social media for days. Eastern Europeans, Muslims – even Americans and Germans – have reported acts of intimidation and harassment. Victims describe an emboldened angry fringe emerging to crow over Thursday’s vote; a T-shirt sported by a man at an Armed Forces Day parade in the working class London borough of Havering over the weekend seemed to sum up the new attitude:
“YES! WE WON! NOW SEND THEM BACK.”
An Indian-origin BBC reporter faced racist abuse on the streets of her hometown in southern England today while she was reporting on Brexit vote.
Sima Kotecha was reporting on the aftermath of the June 23 referendum from the town of Basingstoke when she heard someone saying “Paki”, a racist term used for South Asian origin migrants in the UK.
British reporters across the country have seen the resurgence of racism up close and personal. Adam Boulton, a presenter for Britain’s Sky News, posted a message to Twitter saying he and his family had witnessed three separate incidents of when-are-you-going-home?-style abuse aimed at Europeans over the weekend. Channel Four’s Ciaran Jenkins said that within a five-minute span in the northern England town of Barnsley, three people had shouted “Send them home!” BBC reporter Sima Kotecha said that she was in “utter shock” after having returned home to the southern England town of Basingstoke and been abused with a racial slur she hadn’t heard “since the 80s.”
Police are investigating vandalism at a Polish cultural center in west London and incidents in Cambridgeshire in which cards were given to Polish residents calling them “vermin” and ordering them to leave the country. The National Police Chiefs’ Council said there had been a 57 percent rise in hate crime complaints in the past four days compared to the same period last month.
Britain’s sizeable Muslim community has also found itself caught up in the anti-immigrant backlash. Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that “hundreds of hate crimes” had been reported across the country.
“The type of language that has been used, like ‘go back to your own country,’ we voted this way, now you have to get out,’ that type of language indicates there is some sort of link” to the referendum, he said.
Those who championed the campaign to pull Britain from the EU have condemned the attacks.
“I’ve never, ever, ever encouraged or condoned behavior like that, and I never, ever would,” said United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, before adding that “the real prejudice is the prejudice that’s been there for a decade or more against anybody that dares stand up against the establishment, anybody that dares to say that we shouldn’t be part of the EU.”