UK: "No More Polish Vermin" - adherents of Brexit assault foreigners on the streets
After last Thursday's referendum deciding that Britain will leave the EU, reports of racist and xenophobic incidents there are multiplying. The number of these incidents is sparking concerns among Britons that the results have encouraged extremist elements in society, the Bloomberg wire service reports.
According to the daily newspaper The Independent, more than 100 cases of calls for hatred and racially-motivated insults have been reported since the referendum got underway. Police in London announced they are investigating racist grafitti on the Polish Social and Cultural Association, which has been located in the Hammersmith neighborhood of West London since 1964.
Staff there have already cleaned up the grafitti, which happened this morning. Police have not clarified what was written there, but according to
information disseminated through Twitter, "Go Home" was one of the messages.
One of the crucial factors that decided the victory of the so-called Brexit campaign was immigration, especially from post-communist countries of the EU. By far the most immigrants who work in Britain are from Poland.
Almost one million Poles now live in the United Kingdom. Critics of the campaign for Britain to leave the EU say it frequently deviated toward xenophobic rhetoric and abused the question of migration.
In the town of Huntingdon in the county of Cambridgeshire, local police are investigating fliers reading "Leave the EU, No More Polish Vermin". The fliers turned up on Friday in the mailboxes of local Polish families and were distributed in front of local schools on Friday morning.
Sayeed Warsi, a former co-chair of the Conservative Party, criticized the "divisive and xenophobic" campaign in favor of Brexit. "I have been speaking for most of the weekend with individuals and organizations who monitor hate crimes. They are telling me about some truly disturbing results [of the referendum]. People are being stopped on the street and told 'Look, we voted for Leave, so it's time for you to go'," she said.
"People are saying this to families and individuals who are third, fourth, or fifth generation," Warsi said. "The atmosphere on the streets is not good."
Agata Brzezniak came to the UK on a scholarship from Poland when she was 17 and is now studying for a PhD. A few hours after the announcement of the referendum results, she says she was approached on the street by a woman who asked her if she was Polish.
When Brzezniak said she was, she said the woman told her to be "scared" and that she must get a visa if she wanted to stay in "her" country. "The vicious smile and the way she looked at me brought me to tears," Brzezniak told The Independent.
According to the Bloomberg wire service, such incidents are happening even in the center of cosmopolitan London. A 26-year-old Frenchman named Sebastian was walking with his mother in the Kensington neighborhood of London with his mother when a passer-by walking his dog heard them speaking French and began to shout "Leave, Leave!" at them.
Britons are reporting incidents through Facebook and Twitter, according to the Bloomberg wire service. One participant in a social media debate, Fiona Anderson, wrote that in London "an older woman on bus 134 told a young Polish woman with a child, with great Schadenfreude, to get off of the bus and go pack her bags."
Heaven Crawley, a professor at a university in Coventry, posted the following to Twitter on Friday: "This evening my daughter was walking home from work in Birmingham and saw a group of youths pushing a Muslim girl into a corner shouting 'Get out of here, we voted Leave!'" Jasvir Singh, a London-based Labour Party activist and lawyer, said "The tone of some statements made during the campaign has legitimized racist rhetoric. There is a noisy minority here who feels encouraged by the results of the referendum, which has become a reason they can take their hatred out on others."
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