BY EMMA PENGELLY
A zero tolerance to hate crime pledge will be promoted by a charity on a mission to transform its area into a no hate zone in the next two months, writes Emma Pengelly.
The Asian Resource Centre of Croydon (ARCC) held a public meeting last month after more than three quarters of those asked said they, a family member or a friend had been affected by hate crime.
More than a third of its respondents said they would not report hate crime. Of the 53 people ARCC interviewed 77 per cent said they knew family and friends affected by hate incidents.
More than a third of respondents said they would not go to the police to report a verbal incident of hate crime because they found it difficult to prove something happened.
From its hotline data ARCC reported around 50 per cent of its callers reported race hate, 40 per cent faith hate and 10 per cent other forms.
ARCC chief executive Ima Miah said: “That feeling of who is going to be the next target I think is a very real fear within even the established immigrant community in this country.”
The charity aimed to be the bridge between the community and the police to help more people report hate-motivated crimes and incidents. ARCC’s hate crime meeting was a multi-agency event aiming to break those barriers.
An alliance of community figures will tackle hate crime, including Croydon mayor Bernadette Khan, Superintendent Craig Knight, Croydon council deputy leader Stuart Collins and representatives from TELL MAMA, a project measuring anti-Muslim hate.
They will target race-related, faith-related and Islamophobic cases.
People who attended the meeting said a sense a responsibility for their peers meant they were reluctant to report hate crime because they felt it would trigger more hatred towards their community.
There was also a growing concern of an infiltration of far-right people within places of influence such as community group boards and government boards alongside reports of hate crimes committed at younger ages.
Miah said ARCC received reports of children as young as seven using hate language in school.
She said: “Brexit is the biggest soap opera on television so maybe adults are talking about it unknowingly and kids are picking that up.”
Miah said she believed global events have ripple effects at community level fuelled by anti-immigration media discourse brewing up tensions.
She added: “The Christchurch attacks have an influence on the thinking of the Muslim community in this country and if something like Brexit happens then any negativity harboured abroad is given an excuse here.”
ARCC heard reports of hate crime ranging from verbal to physical abuse.
Parents reported cases of race hate in name-calling while others were affected by physical gestures including spitting and shoving.
ARCC started a hotline service one-and-a-half years ago enabling those who experienced hate crime to report incidents anonymously.
For ARCC now is the time to act with Brexit looming.
Miah said: “More and more, my generation who are born bred and studied to university level in the UK are now thinking – how long are we going to be welcome for?”
The charity, primarily representing more than 40 countries panning Asia, is in talks with Croydon council to become a third-party reporting centre enabling the borough to track hate crime and incidents more effectively.
Miah said: “I refuse to be a bystander that does not report the incident, I will be the one that does.”