Brexit campaign leads to rise in hate crimes on the streets of Suffolk – councillors

Borough councillor Richard Pope.

Borough councillor Richard Pope. - Credit: Archant

The emphasis of immigration during the last weeks of the referendum campaign has led to an increase in the amount of abuse being aimed a European workers on the streets of Suffolk, councillors in Ipswich have heard.

In the wake of the referendum result European passport holders have been subject to taunts from some people in the streets – and their children have been reduced to tears as they go to school, it was claimed.

At this week’s meeting councillors unanimously passed a motion saying: “Ipswich Borough Council condemns all hate crimes and is proud of the Ipswich tradition of welcoming people of all countries, faiths and cultures.”

The leaders of all three political groups – Labour’s David Ellesmere, Nadia Cenci from the Conservatives, and Liberal Democrat Inga Lockington all signed a document stressing the town’s determination to avoid such crimes.

Suffolk County Council passed a similar emergency motion at its meeting yesterday.

Deputy mayor Glen Chisholm told the Ipswich council meeting that over recent weeks he had heard the kind of language in the town that he had not heard since the 1970s or 1980s.

He had spoke to a woman from Portugal who felt no longer welcome in the town that she had made her home after the strength of the debate.

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Conservative councillor Richard Pope is teacher whose work includes offering pastoral support to students.

He had been told some of European students at schools in the area had been told to “go home” as they made their way to or from school.

There had also been tensions between parents waiting to pick up their children following the rhetoric that had been unleashed in the campaign.

He said: “I have been very worried about the tone that was struck and the impact it would have on the streets. I am deeply concerned and we have to work hard to ensure this is stamped out straight away.”

One of his colleagues had come across a young eastern European teenager in tears after the referendum result was announced because she was convinced the police would come to their home and deport the family who thought they had built a good life for themselves in Britain.

Council leader David Ellesmere said: “If anyone feels they have witnessed a hate crime they have to report it to the police.

“There is no place for this kind of behaviour, whatever happened in the referendum last week.”

County council leader Colin Noble said: “I was delighted to support the motion put before the Council today and pleased to see that it was supported unanimously.

“Suffolk communities are welcoming to all people and we need to work together to ensure that there is acceptance and tolerance for those who come from different backgrounds from that of our own.”

A spokeswoman for the police said there had been no significant rise in reports of hate crime since the referendum campaign got under way – although there had been one or two isolated incidents.

She urged anyone who felt they had been the victim of a hate crime to contact the police or council departments that work with the police to ensure they were recorded and investigated.