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Number Of Hate Crimes Rising In The U.K.

RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

The United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union has spurred chaos, politically and financially, and now advocacy groups are asking whether the vote is also linked to more reports of xenophobic attacks. Minorities and foreigners are reporting they've been victims of violence and intimidation since the Brexit referendum. U.K. police forces are tracking hate crimes through an online website, and data shows that some 330 incidents were reported just last week, much higher than the usual weekly average of about 60 incidents reported in the weeks before the vote. Even outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron has addressed the rise in hate crimes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID CAMERON: Whatever we can do, we will do to drive these appalling hate crimes out of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Hear, hear.

SUAREZ: We reached out to Esmat Jeraj. She's a communications officer at the social justice group Citizens U.K. in London. She also identifies as a British Muslim and wears a hijab. And I want to warn listeners, we're going to be talking about some graphic incidents. Esmat Jeraj joined us via Skype, and I asked her what happened to her.

ESMAT JERAJ: Last week, I was walking to my office in East London in the afternoon. And I had a gentleman walking very purposefully towards me who kind of then shouted at me to F off out of his country. Of course, I was very shocked and my reflecting on this has made me quite angry.

SUAREZ: To be clear, it is your country, isn't it?

JERAJ: Very much so. I was born and brought up here. I've spent my whole life, actually, in London. And I very much identify myself as a British citizen.

SUAREZ: So nothing like this has ever happened to you before?

JERAJ: I've never experienced any kind of racial hate crime. But there definitely does seem to have been a rise in racist and xenophobic incidents following the Brexit outcome.

SUAREZ: Now, how do you explain that? Can you draw a straight line from these kinds of incidents to the vote to leave the European Union?

JERAJ: Well, it would be very difficult to prove anything at this point in time because the figures are still very much being plated. But the fact that there has been - I think it's a 57 percent rise in number of reported incidences, according to the National Police Chiefs Association, in the last week alone does indicated there has been some sort of trigger to inspire this kind of rise - with many people actually being told, you know, we voted for you to leave. Why are you still here? When are you leaving?

Now, that does suggest that there is a very strong causal link to the referendum. Though, I'm not suggesting in any way that those voters who voted Leave are racist or sympathetic to racism or xenophobia. Unfortunately, the Leave campaign was somewhat hijacked by a very xenophobic narrative. And many people, when it came to voting, did not actually fully appreciate or understand the various different nuances of what they were voting for.

SUAREZ: Have you heard of anything that transcends the merely insulting or offensive to the physical?

JERAJ: One of my friends - actually last weekend intervened when a shopkeeper was being racially abused and was actually threatened with rape if she didn't stop interfering. Now, something like that is incredibly alarming, in fact very - quite obscene. I mean, I think such incidents only kind of serve to make me more angry and much more firm in my identity. And this has been reaffirmed by many of my colleagues, and alongside actually people from across Britain claiming, you know, this is not happening in our name. There is no place for hate.

People of all colors, all backgrounds, all races, all religions are very much welcome here in Britain. In fact, our organization is coordinating an action across 30-odd stations in London on Monday to kind of declare there is no place for hate crime. They'll be distributing stickers that say love London and also details on how people can go about reporting hate crimes. This is a criminal activity. You can actually report it. It not only feeds into the statistics, but the police do actually respond to it very strongly and very firmly.

SUAREZ: That was Esmat Jeraj. She's the media and communications officer at Citizens U.K., a social justice organization. She joined us from London. Good to talk to you.

JERAJ: Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.