More than a third of the UK’s Black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAEM) population have witnessed or been subject to racist abuse in the seven months since the referendum vote, a TUC poll has found.
The poll, made up of more than 1,000 BAEM adults living and working in Britain, found that 34 per cent have seen, or suffered, racist abuse since June 2015.
Hate crime increased by more than 100 per cent in the months after the referendum statistics show. Police forces have embarked on intelligence gathering operations and are putting protections in place for vulnerable communities in expectation of a further spike after Article 50 is triggered later this month.
A fifth of those surveyed had seen or been a victim of a racial assault, the TUC said, while 41 per cent have heard racist opinions or remarks and 38 per cent have come across racist material online. Twenty-seven per cent of the people asked have seen racist leaflets, posters and graffiti.
Unite equalities rep, Tan Rashid, said the figures correspond with the experiences relayed to him by BAEM people across the country.
After speaking of the racist abuse he has suffered as a bus driver in Middlesborough since the referendum at the TUC conference in September, Rashid has been contacted by other trade unionists who suffered an increase in similar abuse since the Brexit vote.
“I’ve had emails from people about a variety of things. Polish people being told they are now going to have to leave the country, Muslims getting abuse; one woman had her head scarf pulled off and was told ‘now you’re free’.
“My own wife, when she came to meet me at the bus stop during a break, was threatened by a guy with a knife. It’s non-stop,” Rashid explained.
“It isn’t just people at work that are going through this either. Vulnerable people are being targeted – the elderly, women, children. People are afraid to go out because they don’t know what to expect. They don’t feel protected. This issue needs to be taken seriously.”
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said that while racism had never gone away, Brexit had given it “a new lease of life”.
She said, “The scale of abuse is shocking. We have to come together and draw a line in the sand about what is acceptable in modern Britain in 2017 – and the government has to take a lead. It’s unacceptable that shop workers, bus drivers and street cleaners face abuse from members of the public – and their employers don’t have to do anything to protect them.
“Anyone who has been harassed or mistreated at work should talk to their union rep or join a trade union. And we all have a responsibility to call out racist harassment wherever we see it.”
The TUC is calling for the government to strengthen rules that protect workers who deal with the public from harassment and abuse and to properly fund the equalities and human rights commission.
Congress is also demanding that government make private sector companies responsible for promoting equal treatment throughout their activities, something public sector organisations already have to do.
Unite national officer for equalities, Harish Patel, said Theresa May’s government has helped stoke the fires of racism through its approach to Brexit.
“Racist attacks and abuse have absolutely no place in modern Britain. Their increase is a direct result of the xenophobic rhetoric used during the referendum. But rather than reject the politics of difference outright since the Brexit vote, the government has continued to play into the hands of the racists,” Patel said.
“By refusing to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, turning their backs on the plight of refugee children and using the prospect of turning Britain into a tax haven to threaten our European partners, the Tories have provided those with despicable and ignorant views the excuse they need to express their hatred in public.”
He added, “Unite is already working with employers to ensure are taking effective measures to tackle any racist and xenophobic incidents in the workplace.
“It is the government that needs to act. The Tories must stop pandering to right-wing popularism and show the country that racism and extremism will not be tolerated in the UK.”