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Brexit: The rise in hate crime and what we're doing to fight it

Friday 14-10-2016 - 18:18

Hate Crime Awareness Week takes place between 8 – 15 November. Hate Crimes take place across the UK and those that fall victim to them are often the most vulnerable in our society. A priority for NUS this year is to tackle this and support students everywhere who face hate crime however and whenever it occurs.

As was widely reported in the days following the EU referendum result there has been a significant spike in hate crime in the post-brexit environment. The government released figures this week confirming the situation; hate crimes motivated by race and religion soared by 41% in the months following the result. This is disturbing but perhaps unsurprising given the xenophobia whipped up through intemperate and divisive campaigning. The Brexit vote seems to have legitimised and given courage to those with prejudicial and bigoted views who think it’s acceptable to air them and physically target racial and religious minorities.    

 

However, what is more surprising is that this has been paired with a rise in hate crimes motivated by other factors; hate crime across all protected characteristics has increased by 19% in the past year and if we take each separately, race or ethnicity up by 15%, religion or beliefs by 34%, sexual orientation 29%, disability 44% and trans identity 41%. This suggests that bigotry not only about race but sexual orientation and other factors too has been validated.

Most strikingly, the 147% rise in homophobic hate crimes in the three months since Brexit, found by Galop shows we must commit now more than ever to recognize hate crime when it occurs and ensure that LGBT+ people feel safe and supported if affected.

 

With hate, prejudice and fascism threatening us on all fronts, students are at risk. It’s a sad reality that hate crime happens on campus’ across the UK all too often. In research carried out by NUS in 2010 it was found that students face hate motivated attacks to themselves or their property, 31% of LGB people said that they had been a victim of hate crime at least once. Victims of hate crime routinely told us they did not report or do anything about it due to feeling ashamed, embarrassed or not thinking it was serious enough.

 

Hate incidents, attacks on people, buildings and property which are not considered a crime but are, for example, antisocial behaviour, have also been on the rise for the past couple of years. This summer a Swastika appeared at the University of Manchester creating a hostile and unsafe space for its student community.

So what are we doing to combat all of this?

In this toxic environment universities have a responsibility to ensure their students’ welfare and safety are paramount and adopt a zero tolerance approach to hate ideologies on their campuses. A number of student unions have recognised the need to support their most vulnerable students. Liverpool Hope SU worked in collaboration with Stop Hate UK to set themselves up as a third party hate crime reporting centre where those wishing to report an incident are provided with a confidential room to speak to a Stop Hate advisor while officers within the union have been trained up to support and educate their peers on the issue. The hate crime reporting centre at the University of Bolton has trained up its own adviser to discuss what may have happened with a victim or witness, helping its students to access support services and also report the incident to police if they wish.

 

A number of Students’ Unions have told us they are keen to set up support services to deal with hate crime and we’ll be working with them closely to support initiatives and campaigns. SUs and institutions are central in raising awareness and providing the much needed support and advice to victims. Throughout the year NUS will  be producing guidance, tools and advice to tackle all forms of hate crime students are facing.

 

Last week was the anniversary of one of the greatest defeats of fascism this country has ever seen. In 1936 a battle waged on the streets of East London, where people united to protect their friends, neighbours and fellow citizens against Mosley and his army of fascists in the Battle of Cable Street. We’ve seen what collective and brave action like this can achieve, let’s stand together once again, united against fascism and defend all those who fall victim to this poisonous ideology.

If you want to be involved in tackling hate crime across society and on your campus, get in touch with us on Melantha.Chittenden@nus.org.uk

 

Thank you,

Melantha

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