The referendum on whether to leave the European Union may be over in terms of votes counted, but the result continues to send aftershocks through a divided UK.
In the few days since it was announced the UK had voted 52% to 48% in favour of leaving, fears have grown over a rise in racist and xenophobic abuse.
Police in London are investigating “racially motivated” graffiti found at the Polish Social and Cultural Association in Hammersmith, while Cambridgeshire police are looking into laminated cards reading “Leave the EU/No more Polish vermin” which were left outside schools and on doorsteps in Huntingdon, reportedly shortly after the result was confirmed.
Now a dedicated Facebook page has been set up for people to document their experiences, while MP Jess Phillips has stated she intends to put a question to Parliament over the issue.
Several posts describing racist and xenophobic incidents are circulating widely on Facebook, including a photo album by Facebook user and Remain voter Sarah Childs, who has compiled several posts from social media.
Tagged at the tongue-in-cheek location of “Post Brexit Utopian United Kingdom”, the messages (some of which can be seen below) detail incidents such as abusive graffiti in schools, people being told they're “next to go”, some being spat at and chants of “make Britain white again” being heard in the street.
In the album description, Child says: “As these seem like incidents we should all be aware of I've made an album for them.”
With one of the core Leave arguments centring on immigration, there are worries Brexit has emboldened those with racist and xenophobic views, from those who believe all immigrants, European or otherwise, will now be booted out of the country post-haste, to those who feel they can now tell anybody to “go home” without fear of recrimination.
One Twitter user, Dr M Ali Abbasi, said one of his co-workers had been told by a patient, “Shouldn't you be on a plane back to Pakistan? We voted you out”. Another said: “Daughter tells me someone wrote ‘[Child's name] go back to Romania’ on the wall in the girls’ toilets at school today”.
Agata Brzezniak told independent.co.uk she was approached by a woman in the street who asked if she was Polish and told her she should be “scared” following the result: “[Like] many Polish people in the country I feared the EU referendum result would cause an increase in intolerance, discrimination and racism, but I didn’t think it would become so aggressive and be so immediate.”
The Polish ambassador, Witold Sobków, has urged UK politicians to condemn the graffiti on the cultural centre and revealed there would be “high-level” talks today concerning the attacks.
Baroness Warsi, who started backing Remain after initially supporting Leave, over the weekend criticised the “divisive and xenophobic” Leave campaign, and called on its leaders to “come out and say that the campaigning was divisive and was xenophobic and give a commitment that future campaigning and the way that they intend to run this country will be united, will make people from all backgrounds feel like they belong.”
She told Sky News that she believed there had been an increase in hate crime, saying: “I've spent most of the weekend talking to organisations, individuals and activists who work in the area of race hate crime, who monitor hate crime, and they have shown some really disturbing early results from people being stopped in the street and saying look, we voted Leave, it's time for you to leave.
“And they are saying this to individuals and families who have been here for three, four, five generations. The atmosphere on the street is not good.”
One user described how their Anglo-Chinese daughter, born in the UK to British parents, was “told to ‘take your degree and go back to the country you come from so that somebody British can have your job’. Racism has never been far from the surface in a lot of British people. The referendum result has legitimised it by making the racists think that more than half the country agrees with them.”
Another user said: “I'm Polish living here almost 10 yrs with my children. Working for NHS, paid taxes, saving patients life's on daily basis and I'm sad when now I'm getting comments like go home, no more Polish vermin...”
Those behind the group say they hope that by seeing all the incidents gathered in one place, it will raise awareness of the problem: “It’s easy to dismiss one post, but when you see the album it’s a lot harder. We have a lot of people asking us to just move on from the referendum result, but the people affected by these incidents can’t move on while this is happening.
“We are hoping by highlighting this issue, people will realise that we need a plan to tackle [the] social effects of Brexit just as much as we do the economic ones. It’s not about having a go at those who voted Leave. It’s about looking at how we recover from what has been a very divisive campaign”.