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UK: Act to Curb Xenophobic Attacks After Referendum

(London) – The authorities should take strong action to curb xenophobic attacks and abuse in the United Kingdom in the wake of June 23, 2016 European Union referendum, Human Rights Watch said today.

Individuals from minority ethnic and religious groups and people of other EU nationalities have reported being victims of verbal and physical abuse, and a Polish community center was daubed with threatening xenophobic graffiti.

Human Rights Watch strongly encourages people to report such incidents to the police, and we call on the police to investigate them swiftly and seriously, and to take positive steps to protect people from such hate violence.

All British political leaders – particularly those who supported the campaign to leave the EU, which at times included anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric – should promptly speak out loudly, firmly, and repeatedly against xenophobic violence and abuse and the climate of xenophobia that can embolden or give legitimacy to those who would commit such crimes.

The UK authorities have an obligation to ensure public safety and protect against discrimination and racism, and a failure by the authorities and political leaders to address – and be seen to address – these initial attacks risks creating a permissive climate for further attacks and exacerbating divisions within society.

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