The rising tide of violence against European migrants

This week sees the trial of Exeter men alleged to have thrown a Polish man in the river Exe in unprovoked attack. "Howard allegedly told police at the scene:”If someone gets chucked in the river, I’m just going to stand there all day laughing. He punched my mate and he chucked the Polish blokey into the river. I was in stitches’.”

In Northern Ireland, with Loyalist gangs playing a large part, the violence against migrants has become pandemic. Earlier this week, two young Eastern European people, a man and a woman, assaulted with golf clubs by 15-strong gang in East Belfast. A Polish family were driven out of their home in Loyalist Mount Vernon, Belfast. There was a also a gun attack on a Traveller family in West Belfast this week, being treated as a hate crime. Racist attacks are now running at two a day in Belfast.
It seems to be getting worse, although it isn't often front page news. But the tide has been rising now for some time. Here are just the results of a few quick google searches:

  • March 2014: A Polish man pelted with stones in unprovoked attack in Edinburgh.
  • March 2014: A family believed to be Eastern European driven out of their home in Derry in petrol bomb attack, with two other similar incidents targeting Romanian families. 
  • February 2014: Two different Eastern European families attacked in their homes in Belfast. 
  • January 2014: Arson attacks on Polish, Afghan and Slovakian families in Belfast.
  • January 2014: A Polish man attacked by a gang of fifteen in Dagenham. "The group allegedly shouted xenophobic abuse as they pushed him off his bike, tried to rip his helmet from his head and punched and kicked him on the ground."
  • January 2014: Seven attacks on European migrants in ten days in (See IRR's overview from January to March.)
  • November 2013: Polish woman badly beaten in Northampton by a group of three. One attacker shouted there are“too many Polish people living round here”.
  • February 2013: Two Romanians beaten up in Brighton. "The men who attacked them were with two women and asked the Romanians where they were from before punching them. They chased the victims before punching them again and kicking them."
  • 2012-13: Of the 350 documented racist attacks in Bristol, a tenth were targeted at Eastern Europeans.
  • April 2011: A Polish man in Exeter attacked by three men who beat him unconscious and left him requiring extensive surgery on his face. Three men subjected two Bulgarian students in Plymouth to racist abuse before assaulting them.
  • December 2010: A Romanian taxi driver picked up four white men and an Asian woman in Plymouth who subjected him to racist abuse before punching him repeatedly. 
  • 2010: IRR document dozens of violent attacks on Eastern Europeans, in Somerset, Lincoln, the Isle of Wight, Bristol, Edinburgh and elsewhere.
  • June 2009: More than a hundred Romanian families driven from their homes in series of attacks in South Belfast.
  • January 2009: London Polish YouTube star street sweeper attacked a threatened by fascists until he leaves the country.
  • 2008: Polish community organisation records 42 attacks on Polish workers in the UK, mostly in small towns.
What point am I making? I'm not sure. It's just pretty awful. 


damon said…
This post isn't that useful IMO.
Of course there are violent attacks around the country. There are sixty million people in the UK.

Northern Ireland is a particular kind of place. Loyalists can be very paranoid/racist about new people coming into ''their'' areas. Some of them don't like anyone but their own tribal group.

Once you get into this kind of reporting ..... like ''white people did this bad thing to someone of colour or a minority of some sort'' you open potentially a can of worms as to all kinds of bad behavior - that could be committed by one ''group or another.
Most of the violent ''post code gangs'' in London for example, are black, or black majority.
And where do you (can you) go with that?
Nowhere useful.
damon said…
The article mentions Loyalist Mount Vernon in Belfast. A stronghold of the UVF in the past, and still to this day, as was seen over the affair of a former ASDA employee who was sacked for intimidating sectarian behavior at work at the Mount Vernon store.

The employee had served years in prison for a particularly nasty sectarian double murder in the past.
Here's a link about the man.

My point is - that Northern Ireland shouldn't really be included in this wider story, as it's such a unique place in the UK.

And with around a million people from Eastern Europe in the UK, highlighting particular criminal attacks on people doesn't really tell us that much at all.
There are lots of violent people around in society. We know that already. You could just as easily compile lists of crimes committed by eastern European people if you wanted to.
bob said…
Thanks Damon.

You're completely right that the Northern Ireland situation is - and always has been - exceptional.

I don't think that the rest of the UK is going to end up like Northern Ireland. But it does seem to me that the trend that is turning Loyalist violence on Eastern Europeans as well as their traditional hate figures is the same trend that drives up the violence in England, Scotland and Wales.

I don't think that violence against Eastern Europeans is the most important form of violence going on in the UK right now. But I do think it is important because it goes more or less un-reported except by the local papers in terms of the isolated incidents; the bigger pattern is missing.

I'm also not claiming anything about who the perpetrators are. From the statistics, it looks like British non-white people are almost as likely to hate migrants in general as British white people. These sorts of hate crimes tend to be committed by young men, often drunk, but that doesn't mean young men are, as a group, bad people. So I don't see the relevance of the post code gang comparison.

Of course there are violent attacks on everyone everywhere, but I'm not talking about the attacks that happen to just anyone. I saw several reports of Polish people attacked where the news item didn't mention anything about the motive so I didn't include them in my (very under-representative) list. So what point are you making about the 60 million people in the UK? Are white British people the victims of a rising trend in attacks targeting them specifically because they are white British?

Where can we go with this? I'm not sure. But I think we need to ask what is behind this, what is responsible, who is responsible. My view is that the language our media and politicians use has effects on the street on a Friday night, and we need to start thinking about that.
damon said…
I don't know if there is an upward trend of xenophobic attacks on Eastern Europeans.

When incidents from across the country are compiled in a list it might look like that. Of course there are some.
But surely it would be better to look at a location .... a place like Boston in Linconshire for example - or a London bourough - and see how bad and dangerous it was to be an eastern European there.
Is it worse than for English people in Scotland for example?
Probably not.

I'm from Croydon, and just by walking around the town centre, there like I was doing yesterday, people of one minority or other seem to be very much at home.
You might find there were some attacks on Afghan asylum seekers also, but looking around London Road near West Croydon railway station where many of the younger Afghan men live - they seem to be very much ''at home'' too.
The bookmakers office by the station is a sight to see - with guys like that all just hanging out watching thier friends play the fixed odds betting terminals.

When I hear about ''rising tides of violence'' etc - it just doesn't seem to chime with daily reality.
bob said…
Those are good points Damon.

It is striking from the list I compiled that most of the incidents are in the "new contact zones" where relatively few migrants lived not so long ago: Devon, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Lincoln, the Isle of Wight. Perhaps in time migrants will feel as "at home" in those places as in Croydon.

And of course my list is just a list, not a statistically representative account of anything. Almost by definition, these sorts of things are impossible to track and quantify: all the evidence shows that they are massively underreported to the police; establishing that racism or xenophobia was the motivation or part of it is very difficult; aggregating the data over time is hard; and you have to set it against overall levels of violent crime and the numbers of potential victims in an area.

And, once again, I'm not claiming that this is the most prevalent or most important form of violence around. Perhaps violence against English people in Scotland just because they're English is at a higher rate, or attacks on students because they're students; almost certainly if you're visibly gay or visibly Muslim you're more more likely to be attacked for that reason than for being visibly Eastern European.


I'm fairly certain that in the 1980s Eastern Europeans were not targeted as Eastern Europeans at all; extreme hatred of migrants as migrants and of EU migrants in particular is a major feature of our time. And it's not some "natural" result of there being more here - if the number of old people in Essex suddenly shot up we wouldn't expect to see attacks on old people shooting up too. It's about the politics of our time, probably mostly about the intensity of hostile language used about them by politicians and the media and in everyday conversation.

And even my hastily thrown together list has some clues to a rising tide. Back in 2008, when Polish migration had just peaked, there were 42 recorded incidents across the country - whereas from the list I think we can be certain that there have been over 42 recorded incidents over this year alone.

I think if you were visibly Eastern European in Lincolnshire or Yeovil, this account might chime with your daily reality.
ghyl said…
An excellent post to, alas, a very serious and under reported problem.

I will just say that the situation in Northern Ireland is regularly complicated by the fact that Eastern European newcomers and the traditional enemy usually share the same religion (and I believe albeit for circumstantial and spotty evidence, have a developed a tendency to vote the same way... when they can). But the newcomers have no awareness of traditional housing segregation patterns, the 'meaning' of certain neighbourhoods and symbols and where 'no go' areas of or even of the general religious/community split in general and what it means and why is it important.

This, of course, helps make the situation even more toxic than it is already, with low-level racist violence and harassment common among all groups who don't 'belong' there.
Unknown said…
Let them go to Israel. Ooops silly me. They baren't Jewish.

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