Unfortunately, and though to most people thoroughly incomprehensible and inexcusable, hate crime is something which many refugees and asylum seekers in the UK are forced to bear. 


What is a hate crime? 

Legally, a hate crime is defined differently in different parts of the UK, but ,generally speaking, the definition is any criminal action which is seen, whether by the victim or any other person, to have been motivated by prejudice. Prejudice is defined as a ‘preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience 

It is important that the victim’s perception of the motivation for the crime holds legal weight – it ensures that potential hate crimes are taken seriously by the authorities and prosecuted correctly, even in the absence of witnesses (Amnesty International’s case studies, pages 11-16, help to highlight the importance of this). 

Hate crimes could be anything from a physical attack to verbal and emotional abuse, motivated by traits such as race, gender, disability, sexuality or religion. 


Is hate crime a big problem? 

Yes. In fact, it looks like it is a growing one. In 2018/19, 103,379 hate crimes were recorded in England and Wales which was a staggering 10% increase on the previous year and more than double the crimes in 2012/13. While these statistics are going to have been impacted by improved recording by the policewe must also be aware that many hate crimes will remain unreported, whether because the police are not involved or because they are not recognised as a hate crime. This, and the fact that there remains a steady increase year on year with some severe spikes following events such as the EU referendum, it is hard to doubt that hate crimes are a very real, and growing, issue. 


Who is most affected by hate crimes? 

Religion, sexuality, disability and transgender were all key strands of hate crimes recorded in 2018/19 but the majority were racially-based, accounting for 76% of all recorded offences. This was also an increase of 10% on race-based cases the previous year. This racism, and the willingness to act aggressively upon it, is a terrifying force that our clients and other refugees and asylum seekers in the UK are forced to face. 


How and why does hate crime affect refugees and asylum seekers? 

Race and religion are two of the hate crime categories which are most likely to affect asylum seekers and refugees. These are also the most likely prejudices to be fueled or ‘validated’, in the eyes of the belief holder, by events in the outside world. Take the EU referendum for instance, the result of which was that racist view holders seemed to feel ‘validated’More than 6,000 hate crimes were reported in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the month after the referendum, up 20% on the same period in 2015. Not long after, the terrorist attacks of 2017 caused another spike of hate crime, simply because some were unable to differentiate between people of a certain belief and extremists claiming to act in the name of that belief system. 

Refugeesasylum seekers and migrants in general, as well as being of a different race and religion to many people in the UK, have also been painted as a threat to resources, culture and society by mainstream media. Perhaps fueled by this, British people hold the most negative attitudes towards refugee assistance in the EU. With this threat narrative in the media, it is perhaps unsurprising that prejudices develop. 

We have seen prejudice against our clients in action in just the past few weeks. Far-right protesters targeted some of the hotels in which our clients are being housed to help keep them safer during the pandemic. Peaceful protest is not a hate crime, but some protesters were filming and harassing the asylum seekers - people who are here legally to seek refuge from conflict, torture and other dangers. Recently in Kent, there was also a physical attack on an asylum seeker as he came to shore after crossing the channel. Hate and negativity towards refugees and asylum seekers is palpable in today’s society. 

In a 2019 study, British Red Cross staff reported that they were aware of at least one hate crime per month against service users. Refugees and asylum seekers may face barriers when it comes to reporting these incidents, whether a fear of the authorities (often based on experiences from their country of origin), fear of negative repercussions on their asylum claim or language barriers. 

The types of hate crime incidents reported ranged from verbal abuse, often at night and perceived to be fueled by alcohol, intimidating behaviour such as dumping rubbish or excrement in gardens and throwing eggs at accommodation. In the most extreme incident mentioned by staff was a violent assault, where a young man was physically attacked by a stranger in the street and verbally abused.’ - British Red Cross 

Imagine being faced with this hatred, on top of everything else you have been through that has forced you to leave your home. It is unimaginable for those of us who are fortunate enough to never have experienced anything like it.  


The fact is that, just like you or I would do without hesitation were we in the same situation, these people are legally seeking refuge from threats to their lives and freedom. We stand together with refugees and asylum seekers, understanding the horrors they have faced and believing that love, not hate, is the answer.