UKREN blog

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Challenges faced by Roma victims of hate crime in the UK


On 1 July I was invited to speak at the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. I was specifically asked to address the challenges faced by Roma victims of hate crime in the UK. This is what I said.

The challenge

The UK government in its hate crime action plan 2016, identified that reporting of hate crime by Gypsy, Traveller and Roma victims was particularly low. UKREN’s research with Roma in the UK identified the following barriers, let’s view them as challenges, to reporting:

  1. perception that the victim would not be taken seriously or that nothing would happen as a result of reporting a hate incident;
  2. fear that they will be subject to ‘administrative removal’ from the UK if they are not in documented employment or have invoices for self-employment as police have agreed to share victims details with Immigration Enforcement if suspected of being an irregular migrant (5230 EU nationals were physically removed from UK in 2016-17, a 27% year-on-year increase. Many were Roma);
  3. language barriers, or illiteracy;
  4. memories from country of origin where it was sometimes the police who were the perpetrators of hate crimes;
  5. some police officers (incorrectly) not accepting anonymous hate crime reports;
  6. victim felt ashamed, embarrassed or uncomfortable;
  7. or regarded as an everyday incident - part of living in UK society.

The challenge is therefore significant underreporting of hate incidents.

What has been done by civil society to address this?

Just over six months ago a collaboration of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma NGOs led by Herts GATE set up a third party hate crime reporting site: ReportRacismGRT.com, with no funding only voluntary contributions. My contribution was the web site development and hosting. This has seen over 100 reports of hate incidents against Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (by-the-way, the report form was originally developed under a EU project CONTACT). Of these just over 80% of victims did not report the incident to the police. The site also offers support to victims, which I think is important in gaining greater awareness of hate as a crime, of how one can report it, and support leading to trust among victims that something will be done. Of the main types of incident reported:

  • 42 were online hate on website or social media
  • 33 involved discrimination
  • 27 were of verbal abuse.

Opportunity

There is a real opportunity to bridge the gap between communities and police and victim support NGOs.

Since January we have been running a project in London, funded by the Home Office, with two other NGOS - the East European Resource Centre and the Roma Support Group, and most of the Metropolitan Police Service boroughs. This has trained four community advocates to work with Roma and other East European victims of hate crime to report incidents to the police. They have an ebook guide ‘Dealing with hate crime’ to refer to, and the names of the hate crime lead police officer in each borough. We also had discussions with police using participative ‘forum theatre’ in which Roma played out an actual incident.

Here is the incident as it highlights some more challenges. A Romanian female Roma street magazine seller was repeatedly abused verbally and physically by a woman. Nearby market traders phoned the police each time but the police gave it a low priority as the attacker had moved on. But the distress caused to the Roma woman was great. She went to the police station to report the incident. She was told to come back when she spoke better English. She went to a NGO Roma Support Group for help. They accompanied her to the police station and translated for her (police do have access to a translation telephone service). Report taken but nothing happened from the police for a year. The attacks on the Roma woman continued. Then as part of the project the case was discussed with knowledgeable officers. They took the case number and took action. The perpetrator was identified and given a formal warning. The police also gave a remote incident call button to the Roma woman.  The abuse stopped, and the CPS decided not to prosecute.

By acting out the scene at the forum theatre, stopping at key points for discussion with the 70 participating police officers probably worked better than any training manual.

In conclusion, effective protection cannot be just the responsibility of the police nor of victim support organisations. It should be a collaborative effort, that also receives political leadership and funding from government.

Alan Anstead

Coordinator, UKREN

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