Recent figures which reveal that North Yorkshire, Humberside and West Yorkshire have registered the highest increases in hate crime in the three months following the Brexit referendum vote, demonstrates how racially and religiously motivated hate crimes are blighting the lives of ethnic minorities and EU citizens in the region.
Although ethnic minorities and migrants account for only 2.7% of North Yorkshire’s total population, JUST believes that the 68% spike in hate crimes – the third highest figure nationally – is probably an underestimate. According to Nadeem Murtuja, Chair of JUST Yorkshire:
We are concerned that ethnic minorities are at disproportionate risk from hate crime in rural areas. Rural ethnic minority communities are particularly vulnerable, compared to their urban counterparts as they are highly visible and therefore easily targeted. Our work has highlighted that many of them have little information about hate crime centres or the kind of victim support services they can access. Businesses and families also tend to be reluctant to report hate crimes as identifying perpetrators can risk their livelihood and safety. JUST believes there is an urgent need for the North Yorkshire Police to engage meaningfully with vulnerable minorities and develop a comprehensive hate crime strategy that addresses the recent spike in hate crimes.’
JUST is concerned that in areas like Humberside hate crime figures are likely to increase once Article 50 is triggered as the xenophobic rhetoric of populist parties like UKIP and the primacy of immigration in the Conservative’s Leave Campaign continues to be a rich narrative seam that will continue to be exploited. Although 90% of Humberside’s population is white, the 57% increase in hate crime clearly has economic roots. It is evident that Brexit and the Trump phenomenon has emboldened those who have been left behind economically and unless there is a clear investment strategy to reverse the hollowing out of the region’s proud maritime and fishing industry, populist politicians will continue to exploit community divisions. In the light of these challenges, JUST calls on the Hull Constabulary to put out a clear statement of zero tolerance to hate crime and sets out the support structures available to victims.
Perhaps the biggest regional challenge to tackling hate crime rests with West Yorkshire Police as current statistics highlight that 1013 cases of hate crime were reported making it the third highest in the country. West Yorkshire’s high BME population, relative to other Yorkshire regions and the importance of migrant labour to the regional economy is likely to see hate crime figures rise against the undercurrent of prevailing Islamaphobia and xenophobia once Article 50 is triggered. JUST has been concerned that there is a lack of meaningful information on the Force’s strategy to tackling hate crime. Hate crime centres are not a panacea unless there is a buy-in from communities. JUST is therefore calling on West Yorkshire Police to release the number of hate crimes logged at community reporting centres; the police force and other existing arrangements separately so that their efficacy can be assessed.