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Hate Crime: The Problems And Related Prejudice Against Refugees And Asylum Seekers In England And Wales

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Context of the research focus

Acts of violence and discrimination that are motivated by racial and ethnic hatred have a long history and not only in England and Wales (Bowling, 1998) but around the world (Fredrickson, 2001; Iganski and Levin, 2015,p.8). The impact of racial hate crime in some countries, such as Rwanda and Bosnia have had such a profound impact on the members of victimised groups that it has resulted in many people fleeing the country (Iganskin and Sweiry, 2016, p.100). In more recent years however, the main focus has been mostly on the population that are fleeing countries such as Iraq and Syria, where ethnic identity has lead to violence and killings at the hands of Islamic State (Iganskin and Sweiry, 2016, p.6). Across mainland Europe, there has been a increase of intolerance, discrimination and violence directed at asylum seekers and refugees. This has persevered against a backdrop of events like the EU referendum, the European refugee crisis, terrorist attacks in a number of European cities and the growing popularity of far right parties (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 2016).

Why the research is worth doing

According to FRA (2016, p.3), there are only a few European countries that monitor and collect information about hate crimes that specifically target asylum seekers and refugees (Germany, Greece, Finland and the Netherlands). However using information from the police in England and wales there has been a recorded 71,251 incident of race related hate crime in 2017/18. Although this figure shows the extent of the problem of racial hate crime and xenophobia, This dissertation will show that this figure shows very little about the scale of the problem of victimisation against the distinct group of asylum seekers and refugees. While there has been very few studies focussing on this specific population, they are often from outside England and Wales.

Research design

This dissertation will be based upon structured reviews of academic studies from library based research, journal articles and internet search engines. Government and public organisations as well as media reports were found by using the google search engine.


Just like all crimes, hate crime is a social construct (Hall,2012; Jacobs and Porter, 1998, p3). Victimisation of the ethnic minority has become a major problem for concern in England and Wales and it is important to examine and understand how this became so problematic.

Emergency of hate crime

Hate crime has taken many different forms over the last few decades, this can be be narrowed down to the time period, who you are and your geographical area of living. However for Bowling (1998), hate crime In its current form today can be tracked through government and academical works to a number of key events in UK history. However the tipping point that brought about the concern of modern racial hate crime in England and Wales was the murder of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence in 1993, a black teenager who was killed in a unprovoked gang attack in South-East London (Chakraborki and Garland, 2015; Hall, 2013, P33). After constant campaigning form Stephen’s parents, a public inquiry was launched into finding how the police handled the case of Stephen Lawrence’s death and in 1999 this lead to the publication of the McPherson report. With the publishing of the report the way in which racism was policed and seen by the public had changed, but also brought hate crime to larger standing in the political and academical settings (Hall, 2013,p35).

V​ictims of hate

Many researchers have argued over the years (Garland,2011; Chakraborti and Garland,2012) that in attempts to measure the full extent of hate crime problem many strands of hate crime have developed sub-groups. since the case of Stephen Lawrence Racial hate has been getting more academic research within the UK, however despite this there are sub-groups of victims that get very little attention within debates and academic research, one such group under the race and ethnic brand is that of refugees and asylum seekers (Bhatia, 2017). However despite this being known recent research and studies into hate crime of this subgroup still remains limited to British criminologists (Chakraborti and Garland, 2015; Hall, 2013).

Chakraborti (2015) suggests that asylum seekers and refugees have largely gone unnoticed by academical work and government reports and data because their lack of political and social influence, as well as the language barrier that makes it harder to communicate with victims.

Recognising hate and prejudice

The term ‘hate’ has largely been debated in the literature of hate crime as the main underlying factor of crimes that are labeled under hate crimes are not actually related to the perpetrator hating the victim but are related to prejudice thoughts towards the victim (Hall,2013,p.9).

Prejudice is also the term that is preferred to be used in official documents and definitions that relate to hate crimes, an example of this can be seen the the police hate crime operational guidance, it states that “A hate crime is any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race” (College of Policing, 2014, p4). When looking at concept of prejudice, the work of Gordon Allport (1954), is still largely relevant to scholars today as is considered the starting point of even today’s prejudice research.

Allport work examines how prejudice is embedded into people’s stereotyping of outgroups (a social group that the person does not identify with). In his work Allport developed a five point scale to show the different stages of prejudice. The five stages include ‘anti-locution’ (this includes hate speech), as well as thought ‘avoidance’ and ‘discrimination’, this can also lead to ‘physical attacks’ and in the worst form it can lead to ‘extermination’. Allport stresses that this scale does not show how people advance from one stage to the next and that most people’s prejudice does not develop past the ‘anti-locution’ stage (Hall, 2013, p84).

More recently the work of Jacobs and Potter (1993; 1998) argues that hate crime are actually rarely based on prejudice but are based on other circumstances. An example can be when valued resources such as housing and jobs are hard to come by, this can cause conflicts between two groups and one group blames the other for this (developed more in chapter 3), one such group that usually gets the blame is immigrants. Although Jacobs and Potter also stress the how much prejudice plays a part in racially motivated hate crime. It is important to consider their argument that other factors may play a role in racial hate crime and that the causation of offending against refugees and asylum seekers is not solely down to that of high levels of prejudice.

Concluding comments

This chapter has shown how hate crime was established and recognised as a problem. In particular it has looked at how asylum seekers and refugees are generally overlooked when it comes to the studies and data collection of this group. Finally this chapter has looked out how their are different levels committing hate crime and how prejudice is an important part in understanding hate crime, as well as the argument that prejudice might not be the only factor that causes people to commit racial hate crimes. The next chapter will examine the extent and nature of racial hate and prejudice towards asylum seekers and refugees.


The chapter will begin by reviewing the three main terms that are used when referring to the immigrant population and how these can impact the understanding of experiences, vulnerabilities and situation.then through government data will examine the extent of hate crime that is known and whether asylum applicants are a cause for the increase, the it will compare data from other EU countries to compare the problem. It will also look at who commits hate crimes and examine the reasons into why people commit such crimes.

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Difficulties in understanding the terminology

When faced with the problem of tacking crimes towards asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, it is important to understand the difference between the three different label terms as they each have their own definition, however they are commonly misused and are mistakenly used interchangeable of one another. To the public and the media these different terms can become mixed up and be treated just as three different terms for the same definition meaning (Gabrielatos and Baker, 2008). The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status (2011) states that a refugee is someone that has been forced to flee their country due to war or violence and that they fear of being persecuted for race, religious, political opinion or because they identify with a particular social group. However before they get the status of ‘refugee’ they must have made a claim for asylum and have had their application successfully granted by the Home Office ​(Edwards, 2015).

An asylum seeker is someone who has fled their country because of persecution and they are seeking international protection from a country but they are still waiting for their claim to be processed to determine there refugee status​(Edwards, 2015)​. However migrants do not move from their country due to fear of prosecution or death, but for other reasons such as better education, to find work or for a better way of life. Migrants who come to the UK from european countries to work or come to work on a work visa are known as ‘economic migrants’. However if they do not come from the EU then they need a valid visa to live/work in the UK, if they do not have one then they are ‘illegal migrants’, research suggests that most illegal immigrants come from countries such as india, nigeria and albania, however most of them came to the UK on valid visas but failed to go home when their visa expired.

The problem when these definitions become blurred is that the public do not know the reason why asylum seekers come to the country and they do not understand the legal protection that asylum seekers require and they do not understand that asylum seekers can cross borders legally to seek asylum.

The Nature of race-hate

Racial hate has taken many forms over the years from grafiti and verbal abuse to psychical violence,arson of property and even murder (Athwal, Bourne and Wood, 2010, p10), the study conducted by Athwal, Bourne and wood analysed 660 cases of racial violence in the media in 2009, their study shows that racial abuse was recorded in 455 of these cases. Although their study did not focus on a specific ethnic population as well only looking at 660 cases which is a very small portion of officially recorded hate crimes. They concluded in their study that asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants were the groups that were the most likely to be at risk of racially motivated attacks.

The Leicester Hate crime project that was published by Chakrabotri, Garland and Hardy in 2014 is one of Britain’s biggest hate crime studies to date. The study found that almost all the respondents (91 percent) where victims of racial verbal abuse and that over two thirds (73 percent) have been victims of racial harassment in the form of bullying and other threatening behaviour, and that almost half (42 percent) where victims of crimes that caused damage to their property that were believed to racially motivated. Other studies that specifically focuses on refugees and asylum seekers also found that they victims of other racially motivated harassment and abuse such as; being spat on, shouted at, being beaten (both themselves and their kids) and being threatened with knives (Bhatia, 2015; 2017). Chakraborti (2014, p. 18) believes that such low level acts of everyday prejudice is a largely neglected area of research, despite they represent the main types of victimisation.

The official problem

In England and Wales, attempts to find the full scale of the problem of racist hate crime relies on crime data that is recorded by the police and then published by the home office. The latest statistical bulletin from the home office (2018​a​, p12) shows that racial hate crime has constantly been increasing over the past six years, increasing from 35,944 racial hate crimes in 2011/12 to 71,251 in 2017/18, with a recorded 62,685 in 2016/17 that is an increase of 14%. With the constant rise of hate crime over the years Awan and Zempi (2017) suggest that the increase can be related to ‘trigger’ events such as the EU referendum vote in 2016 and the Manchester and london attacks of 2017, this leads to the increasing in both commiting and the reporting of hate crime. This can be seen by the spikes in the recorded data around the time of these events (see figure 2.2, Home Office, 2018​a​, p14). However it is difficult to determine how many of the 71,251 recorded racial hate crimes are based upon prejudice to someones refugee or asylum status as race hate crimes are only recorded based on their ethnicity or country of origin.

As Well as data that is recorded by the police, the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) can be another way of gathering statistical data on racial hate crimes. The most recent CSEW that covers the years of 2017/18 show that their was around 101,000 hate crime incidents reported to them (Home Office, 2018​a​, p21). However just like the police database, the CSEW coverage of racial hate does not go beyond that of ethnicity so there is still no record of how many of these incidents where related to asylum seekers or refugees. Iganski (2011) suggests that the lack of subgroups in the data is because of the way in which victims are recorded under such broad bands such as racial and ethnical victimisation.

However if ignoring the limitations of subgrouping the data the two individual databases show that there is a significant difference in the amount of racial hate crimes that are being reported with the CSEW having 29,251 more recorded incidents than the police. However although there has been a constant increase of racial hate crime, data from The Home Office (2018b) also shows that in the year ending June 2018 the UK received 27,044 applications for asylum, this was down one percent from the previous year. From these applicants only 14,308 were granted refugee status, this was down 12 percent lo compared to the year before which was 16,215 successful grants of asylum. Comparing the rise is racially motivated hate crimes to the amount of applicants for asylum in the UK, it shows that racial crimes are rising although the amount of asylum seekers coming into the UK is decreasing.


When attempting to build a profile it is important to note that anyone can commit a hate crime as stated in Williams and Tregidga (2013, p.13) ‘anyone can be a hate crime perpetrator regardless of age, race and gender’. However several studies have found similar traits between the perpetrators. A majority of the studies found that the perpetrators are usually young white men, this supports the assumption that hate crimes are committed by those in the majority group (Chakraborti et al, 2014, p.56; Iganski and Smith, 2011; Williams and Tregidga,2013,p.46). When looking at data from the Leicester hate crime project, they found that 37 percent of the perpetrators were aged 19 or younger and that 32 percent where between 20 and 30 years of age (Chakraborti et al, 2014). A similar studies that was conducted in sweden that focused specifically on hate crime against immigrants also suggested that a majority of the perpetrators were also young males (Bunar, 2007).

The most commonly suggested cause of why people offend is due to the socio-economic situation (Iganski et al, 2011, p.11; Ray and Smith,2002, p.95). Research that was conducted in the US also suggest other factors into why people commit hate crime, it suggests that people who have come from a dysfunctional background, have had poor educational or have had a bad upbringing (Levin and McDevitt, 1993; McDevitt, Levin, and Bennett, 2002). Similar findings have also been found in studies that have been conducted in England and Wales (Gadd et al, 2005; Ray and Smith,2002; p.95). Finally, research has also suggested that drugs and alcohol misuse are also common features in racial offenders (Gadd et al, 2005; p.9).

The above research has provided a big insight into the profile of perpetrators of racial hate crimes, despite this making a profile that covers general racial hate crime as well as gathering information on people who target asylum seekers and refugees is still very difficult to construct. When looking at the case of asylum seekers and refugees this is due to despite asylum seekers and refugees having small mentions in studies from within England and Wales (Chakraborti et al, 2014; Gadd et al, 2005; Williams and Tregidga, 2013), there was has been no asaysis breakdown as to which sub-group under racial hate crimes where being victimised and by whom.

Finally, the main reason why a profile is hard to establish is because many studies have been from a victim based view and that is is hard to research the offender’s perspective from this type of research (Bowling and Phillips, 2003; Williams and Tregidga, 2013; .138). As mentioned above it is hard to build a profile from victim based research as it does not help in understanding the motives into why people commit hate crimes. This can be seen in the leicester hate crime project (Chakraborti et al, 2014, P.22) as many victims believe that they are being targeted because of characteristics such as their age, race, appearance or religion and not because of their asylum or refugee status. This shows that without further studies into the offenders perspective, it is very difficult to understand why they target someone and for what reason.

Concluding comments

This chapter has attempted to understand the extent and nature of racial hate crimes towards asylum seekers and refugees but has found that it is difficult to fully understand the extent as the data gathered by government agencies and crime victimisation surveys does not break it down soley to look at asylum seekers and refugees but at racial hate crime in general. Attempts to get accurate data towards asylum seekers and refugees will be hard to collect due to the possible consequences that they might face if they report a crime to the police, this leads to asylum seekers and refugees not reporting any crimes that they are victims to.

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Hate Crime: The Problems And Related Prejudice Against Refugees And Asylum Seekers In England And Wales. (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
“Hate Crime: The Problems And Related Prejudice Against Refugees And Asylum Seekers In England And Wales.” Edubirdie, 08 Jul. 2022,
Hate Crime: The Problems And Related Prejudice Against Refugees And Asylum Seekers In England And Wales. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Sept. 2023].
Hate Crime: The Problems And Related Prejudice Against Refugees And Asylum Seekers In England And Wales [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 08 [cited 2023 Sept 24]. Available from:
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