The split is audible and perceptible – especially in cities like Stroke-on-Trent. There was a clear majority for the Brexit. And that’s where many migrants live. Since the referendum, the mood has become increasingly hostile.
Industrial decline, high unemployment, poverty, social problems. The consequences can be clearly seen in the big city of Stoke-on-Trent between Birmingham and Manchester. Also visible: the high proportion of migrants. People with a Pakistani background can be found here in the Shelton district in particular – but also Europeans.
Since almost 70 percent of the people in Stoke voted for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, the climate has become rougher for them, says Portuguese Rui, who is picking up his daughter from kindergarten: “The Brexit supporters are harassing foreigners. That’s why they want Brexit. The referendum was based on the lie that after the Brexit you would get rid of the foreigners and nobody would come anymore.
Often vulgar, sometimes also attacks
This is also reflected in statistics: hate crime – and above all racist attacks – has increased sharply in Stoke-on-Trent since the referendum. Often these are vulgar attacks, but sometimes also physical attacks.
Simon Harris heads the citizens’ advisory office in Stoke and noted that the number of “hate crimes” has quadrupled in important phases of the Brexit debate. “People feel encouraged by the tone of the public debate to express their hatred,” Harris said. “Politicians must be careful in their choice of words. They have often been quite cynical and have caused unrest.
“You take away our jobs, go back to Poland.”
The number of unreported cases is high. Those affected often find it difficult to report incidents. And all the more to talk about it publicly. The BBC told Edyta Kastelik from near Birmingham that she and her friends often had to listen to things like: “You take away our jobs, go back to Poland”. This has increased since the Brexit referendum.
Shazia Nasreen was even thrown with a stone and insulted as a “Paki”. The attackers urged her to leave Britain. She was not welcome here. “I was really scared,” says Nasreen.
And it is no longer just against foreigners and migrants. Attacks on homosexuals have also increased, reports scientist Kate Ferguson. “If violence against one group increases, then violence against other groups also increases,” she says.
Hate could increase after new elections
British society is suffering from a crack that is not so easy to repair, says citizen adviser Harris. “We need to work with the different groups in society and make it clear that there are more things in common than things that divide us. And people need to feel safer again, more confident about their future. Then they need less an outlet to release frustration, anger and fear.”
Society’s cohesion is destroyed quickly, and the process takes much longer, says Kate Ferguson of the “Protection Approaches” organization. Even if the new elections in December brought a solution to the Brexit problem, she believes that hatred could still increase. “Whatever the outcome, a large minority will feel their identity is affected. So we still have a few difficult years ahead of us.”