Xenophobia wave in the UK: hate against foreign people do not stop spreading

The attack over a Bangladeshi man in London’s underground is the last from a vast chain of assaults against foreigners in the United Kingdom after Brexit

Jubair Ahmed was heading home in London’s tube with Kilian Ahmed, his Spanish wife, from Whitechapel to Barking neighborhood, last Monday afternoon when suddenly, according to their own testimony to Evening Standard, a man started to shout, speaking violently against a black man. Then they decided to ignore him, but the author of the video started to record, suspecting that something dangerous could happen: and it did.

As it can be seen in the video, uploaded to Youtube, the aggressor seemed to be about to get out when the subway door opened in Uptown Park station. However, before getting out, he suddenly approached the couple and punched Jubair on his face. That’s when Kilian chased him through the station, shouting at him in defense of his husband.

The video of the aggression has become viral, and the reaction of Kilian has been widely applauded through social media, defining her as a real warrior. Miqdaad Versi, consultor from the British Muslim Council, diffused it on Twitter while hoping that “the perpetrator is found and faces justice for this despicable unprovoke assault”. The aggressor, aged 33, is now prosecuted, released on bail.

But this is not the only story of attacks against foreigners in the UK heard recently. In Bournemouth (in the Southern coast), Tomás Gil, a Spanish boy from Valencia who had been living in the UK during four years, was talking to a friend in Spanish when suddenly he was hit with a stick by a man who shouted at him “Fucking Spanish, speak English”. The incident took place on May, but the video has become viral now on October due to the release of the aggressor’s prison sentence: 12 months in jail, 150 hours of social work and a compensation of £800 to the victim.


“We voted Leave: it’s time for you to leave”

According to Sayeeda Warsi, former chair of the Conservative Party, since the Brexit referendum results were known on June 23rd, xenophobic manifestations exponentially jumped out. “People were being stopped in the street and said ‘Well, we voted leave, it’s time for you to leave’” she told Sky News. The Muslim Council of Britain released information compiling over 100 incidents of hate crimes in less than a week following the referendum results.

Together with London and Bournemouth, a great number of locations conform the list where racist assaults have been and are taking place in the UK. In Manchester, a man with Middle East facial features was assaulted in the subway by two young boys who shouted at him things like “Get deported, you’re a muppet. Get off the tram now, I’ll waste you” or “Don’t talk shit when you’re not even from England, you little fucking immigrant”. The victim tried to maintain composure, asking the aggressors how old they were, defending himself by stating that he had been there (in the UK) more than they had, in front of a thunderstruck audience.

The following day of Brexit results, in a supermarket in Gloucester (Southwest of England) and according to witnesses’ testimonies, a man jumped into the queue and asked, shouting, where people were from. “This is England now; foreigners have 48 hours to fuck right off. Who is foreign here? Anyone foreign?”. Fras, a Polish consultant in European educational projects who was there with his child, told The Guardian to be concerned about what incidents like this might mean for people like him who have moved from the EU to Britain.

However, these are not cases only from isolated radicals. Some events prove that, in certain circumstances, assaults are collectively organized. An example of it took place in Huntingdon, a little town in East England where Brexit succeeded. With a huge Polish community (around 10.000 people), in the hours after referendum results were announced, several signs appeared in St. Peter’s school saying “Leave the EU/No more Polish vermin”. Teachers and students were shocked when they saw it, including a Polish child who expressed “to feel very bad”. Police reported that the same message appeared in a large number of properties, what made Polish population in the town feel scared and worried.

Despite the police investiation, authors remain mostly unknown


“How did Great Britain become Little England?”

When The Guardian asked about their feelings after Brexit confirmation, British Muslims and minorities shared a common feeling: fear. Many of them, born in the UK (and some with even two or three generations behind) felt confused when asked to go home when they were actually at home.

“I want to live in a country where people are kind, tolerant and decent, not xenophobic and prejudiced. I fear the rise of the far right and I doubt leaving the EU will make things any better for those who are already marginalized in our society. How did Great Britain become Little England?” stated Bill, a 46 years-old second-generation migrant from Derby.

Four months have passed since the triumph of Brexit in British polls, but xenophobic assaults remain and do not seem to cease. Together with last week’s incident against Jubair Ahmed and his wife, the British Muslim Council reported on October 5th a new attack on a Muslim woman: two white men, described in their early 30s, ripped her hijab off in a busy London street. “That this attack happened in broad daylight in a busy London street is deeply worrying. We call on authorities to do all they can to ensure hate crimes are not constant incidences occurring in Great Britain. We need serious and tougher actions to be taken to fight religious hate crimes” stated Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.

An anti-immigration demonstration in Dover, in the early 2016. Photograph: Tom Nicholson/Rex/Shutterstock

Some experts consider Brexit triumph a “turn-on” button for assaults, like if now aggressors had legitimization to do it. There is no embarrassment, assaults are public and exposed to an audience that in most cases stay silence. “While before the perpetrators were usually keyboard warriors, waging their xenophobic battle online, now more and more reports are emerging of real-life physical and verbal confrontations” stated Miqdaad Versi in his Guardian’s opinion column.




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