by NADEEM BADSHAH
MINISTERS have been urged to “take their head out of the sand” after research showed the police record 29 race hate crimes a day against children.
There were 10,571 offences against children in 2017-2018, with toddlers and babies among those suffering – a figure which has risen by more than a fifth since 2015-2016.
Research by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) also found some youngsters are “whitening” their skin to avoid being targeted by racists, which has sparked criticism of the government’s “inadequate” response to the issue.
One 16-year-old girl said: “People call me a terrorist and keep telling me to go back to where I came from. I dress in traditional Muslim clothes and I think it singles me out.
“I usually just put my head down and get on with it, but it’s getting to the point now where I genuinely feel like I might get attacked.”
Another girl, 10, said: “I’ve been bullied ever since I started school. The bullies call me nasty names. It makes me feel so ashamed. My friends won’t hang out with me any more because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin.
“I was born in the UK, but bullies tell me to go back to my own country. I don’t understand why. I’ve tried to make my face whiter before using make-up so I can fit in. I just want to enjoy going to school.”
Jabeer Butt, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation, told Eastern Eye: “These findings are disturbing, and the fact that it is affecting children of such young ages is deeply upsetting, but not surprising.
“We have seen a rise in hate crime in the UK in the past few years. Online hate, new far-right movements and inadequate action by governments to curb them have created a toxic racist atmosphere in which a new generation are growing up.
“The UK needs coordinated action to tackle hate and to support children and adults who are targeted.”
The NSPC-run Childline charity held 2,617 counselling sessions about race and faith-based bullying between 2015 and 2018, and found that girls were more likely to speak to them than boys.
Childline counsellor Atiyah Wazir said: “Over the eight years that I’ve volunteered as a counsellor, it is just as heart-breaking every single time a child tells you they wish they looked different.
“These children have been made to feel shame and guilt, and sometimes daren’t tell their mums or dads about it because they don’t want to worry or hurt their feelings. I want every child to know that this bullying is not okay, they have nothing to be ashamed of, and Childline is always here to listen.”
Dr Roxanne Khan is director of the Honour Abuse Research Matrix (HARM) network and a senior lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire.
She told Eastern Eye: “Children have been caught in the crossfire of a freshly hostile environment, fuelled by a number of key social factors. As with adults, these children are victims of increasingly hostile attitudes towards immigrants. It would be easy to point the finger at Brexit as the ‘ball-of-wax’ cause.
“Yet, while Brexit has indeed emboldened the farright, it is the validation of racist opinions in the mainstream media and across social media which accounts for the success of hate groups and the farright politics driving these crimes.
“Children see adults behaving in an openly hostile way towards one another, in real life and online, so they copy this behaviour and get kudos for it. A comprehensive strategy to eradicate hate crime begins with education.”
It comes after a report warned that “unwillingness” by the government to engage with the threat posed by far-right extremists is allowing them to grow. The study by the Royal United Services Institute said the focus placed on Islamist militants has meant counter-terrorism authorities have made little attempt to understand how far-right individuals
and groups raise funds.
It called for cross-border collaboration with the private sector and stressed the importance of financial leads in investigations.
“Where this activity occurs online involving electronic payments rather than anonymous cash payments, it could trigger a ‘red flag’ for financial institutions processing the related payments that may be useful to law enforcement,” the study said.
Fiyaz Mughal, founder of the Faith Matters charity, said the “NSPCC data shows that young people are also at the frontline of having to challenge, and sadly being targeted by hate and prejudice.”
He added: “It is essential that the Department for Education, which has taken a ‘heads down’ approach to tackling anti-Muslim hate, realise that these issues are not going away. They need to act and take their head out of the sand”.
Labour MP Tan Singh Dhesi said it was “heartbreaking to see the increase in race hate crimes against children.”
The MP for Slough in Berkshire added: “The NSPCC have done an excellent job in highlighting this important issue. Now the government finally needs to grasp the sheer extent of this problem affecting our children’s well-being. It needs to provide schools, charities and local authorities with the resources and funding to tackle the issue head on.”
Faith minister Lord Nick Bourne said it has an Anti-Muslim Hatred working group addressing concerns raised and a “refreshed Hate Crime Action Plan to tackle race and religious crime.”
He added: “This government abhors all forms of hate crime.”
Head of Childline John Cameron said: “Childhood bullying of this nature can cause long-term emotional harm to children and can create further divisions in our society.
“If we see a child bullying another because of their race, we need to tackle it head on by explaining that it’s not okay and how hurtful it is. I would urge any child who is being targeted because of their race to contact Childline, and any adult to call the Helpline if they are worried about a child.”