Polish media in UK shocked by post-Brexit hate crimes

Image source, POSK London / Twitter

Britain's Polish community has been left shocked by incidents of hate crime reported since the British referendum to leave the EU.

Police are investigating several cases, including racist graffiti daubed on the Polish and Social Cultural Association in London, and cards with the words "Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin" being posted through the letter boxes of Polish families and distributed outside primary schools in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

Anecdotal reports of such abuse have also appeared widely on social media in the UK.

"Had to issue a red card to the family of patient who were abusing a Polish nurse. They told her 'pack your bags as you will be deported soon'", posted @secret_nhs, an anonymous Twitter account purportedly written by an NHS manager.

Image source, David Paxton / Twitter

"Reservation request at my friend's restaurant today [requesting a "British waiter please. Don't send me any Europeans to my table"]. Punter was obviously rung back and declared unwelcome".

Image source, Simon Hix / Twitter

"My Polish cleaner has just told me that her and her husband have faced terrible xenophobia since Friday! THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!" .

'Absolutely terrified'

There are an estimated 850,000 Poles living in the UK, with several dedicated UK-based media outlets.

Following the vote, community portal Moja Wyspa sought to reassure its readers over the weekend with the headline: "Don't worry nobody wants us out." But by Monday, the website had switched to reporting on "alarming" attacks targeting minorities, including Poles, over the weekend.

Jakub Krupa, the Polish Press Agency's UK correspondent, has been following the issue closely, retweeting reports of hate crime: "Sadly, more and more examples of #PostRefRacism against #PolesinUK I have been warning about since #EUref day" .

Image source, Jakub Kruper / Twitter
Image source, The Guardian

In a commentary for the Guardian newspaper, he wrote: "The Polish-language press in the United Kingdom have been... speculating on what the future may bring for the largest non-British national group living in this country. They are not just worried - they are absolutely terrified."

UK solidarity

Polish-language media in the UK have reacted with a mixture of defiance and disappointment. Originally reporting on the implications of Brexit, attacks against Poles now dominate their pages.

The president of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, Tadeusz Stenzel, has been quoted widely as saying that the cultural centre in Hammersmith has never seen an attack on this scale since it opened in 1974.

Weekly newspaper Polish Express (polishexpress.co.uk), the largest Polish-language paper outside of Poland with a UK circulation of more than 70,000, said in an editorial that it was only "stupid people" who thought all immigrants would "magically" disappear after the referendum. "Ordinary Britons, ashamed over their less thoughtful compatriots, have quickly offered expressions of solidarity and compassion," it said.

British 'hypocrisy'

Comments in response to the article included fresh accounts of abuse and expressions of anger over what they termed British "hypocrisy" at not doing more to prevent such incidents.

In Poland, leading daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza ran the headline: "British scatter leaflets about 'Polish vermin'. What's next? 'The atmosphere gets very dark'". The article speaks of the need to "bottle the genie of racism before it's too late".

Cake and solidarity

But some communities have sought to show Polish people they are welcome in the UK.

The Polish Cultural Centre tweeted pictures of visiting school children and posters made by them aimed at showing solidarity. The centre also speaks of the "overwhelming support from the local community. Thank you #PoskLondon #PolesInUK".

Image source, Posk London / Twitter

In Huntingdon, two women, Tierce Lister and Gina Box, have set up a community cake share event and are publicising it on Facebook.

They said: "I'm sure there are plenty of people within the Polish community (and other communities as well) who have made Huntingdon their home ... I'm sure some of these people must be feeling very unsure and frightened of their future right now. If we have even the smallest opportunity to reach out and reassure them that they are welcome here, I think we should grab it with both hands!"

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