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Hate Crimes Surge in the U.K. After Brexit Vote

The Leave campaign scored with its markedly nationalistic tone.SCOTT HEPPELL AFP/Getty Images

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By Tara John @Tarajohn

There has been a surge in racist attacks in the United Kingdom following Thursday’s referendum in which 52% of voters said they wanted to leave the European Union.

“There are very obvious links from the outcome of the result and people using it like a catalyst to say things like ‘we are out of Europe so you now can’t be here’ or ‘go back home’” says Gareth Cuerden, head of hate crimes in Wales for the charity Victim Support. He said his team has received over 60 reports of hate crimes and incidents in Wales, including from non-European racial groups.

The rise in racist attacks appears to be pegged to the belief that migrants will have to leave the U.K. following the referendum — in which the Leave campaign vowed to “take back control” of immigration. Cuerden notes that they saw a similar spike of hate crimes and incidents in Wales around last November’s Paris terrorist attacks. “When public figures, the press and everyone focuses on a story that is specific to a characteristic like race or religion we can expect an increase [in hate crimes]” says Cuerden. “We are expecting the same trend to come through with the EU referendum because there has been a big focus on race.”

London’s Metropolitan police confirmed on Sunday that they were looking into “allegedly racially motivated criminal damage” to the Polish Social and Cultural Association in west London, after graffiti was found on the front entrance. The Polish embassy released a statement on Monday, expressing alarm at the “recent incidences (sic) of xenophobic abuse” of the Polish community and other minority groups. In Wales, businesswoman Shazia Awan, who campaigned for the U.K to remain in the E.U. was told to “pack her bags and go home.

It also emerged that cards saying “Leave the EU: No more Polish vermin” were left outside homes and a school in Cambridgeshire — an area that has seen high levels of EU immigration to work in its farming and food packing industries. Channel 4 correspondent Ciaran Jenkins said three people shouted “send them home” as he was reporting from the northern English town of Barnsley last Friday.