'One in ten' non-white families suffer racial harassment

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The Independent Online
ONE IN TEN ethnic minority households in London have suffered racial abuse, threats or physical attacks, according to research to be published today.

The study by the independent London Research Centre found that 48,000 households have experienced racial harassment: 64 per cent of those say family members have been verbally abused, 24 per cent report physical assault and 17 per cent have members who have been threatened because of the colour of their skin. The study also found that 10,000 white families had suffered harassment.

The study, the first large survey into the experiences of ethnic minority families, exposes the inadequacies of official statistics. Only half of those who said they had been harassed had reported the incidents. More than 40 per cent of those assaulted said they never went near a police station.

Jane Hankin, LRC research officer, said the statistics had 'surprised' staff on the five-month project, which took place last summer, primarily to assess London's housing needs. The LRC, which is supported by all 33 London boroughs, is working on a more detailed analysis.

The Commission for Racial Equality last night described the findings as 'an appalling indictment of British society'.

Chris Myant, a spokesman, said: 'What is now certain is that the situation is infinitely worse than anyone has yet been officially prepared to admit. That 32 per cent - 16,000 - of households still feel threatened because of their race is disgusting.

'In the capital city of one of the most advanced countries in the world, tens of thousands are going to bed fearing attack. And it is not just little facist cells they fear but members of 'ordinary' white British families.'

Mr Myant said the survey was 'solidly based' but might underestimate the extent of racial harassment. Households were asked only about attacks and abuse in or near their present homes. That ruled out harassment in the workplace and elsewhere.

It is impossible to tell whether the statistics mirror the rise in racism in other parts of Europe. Mr Myant said: 'We have nothing to compare these figures with because this type of research has never been done before. We cannot tell if the situation is getting better or worse.

'The commission has been arguing for a long time that the laws in this area need to be tightened. Only in the last few years has the Government even gathered statistics on racially-motivated attacks. We believe there should also be an offence of racial harassment.

'There are already measures that can be taken against people who racially harass others. On housing estates persistent racists can be removed,' he said.

This year the commission is conducting a similar 'real experience' study to gauge the extent of racism throughout Britain. It will draw together statistics from small groups such as the Greenwich Action Committee against Racist Attacks, which recorded more than 200 incidents last year; more than half of the 177 assaults were against women. Families living on the borough's council estates were frequent victims.

Incidents ranged from taunts to excrement being thrown at people and violent assaults. The committee claims the rise in attacks is due to the arrival of the British National Party in Greenwich.

Mr Myant warned: 'The CRE and others have been trying to ring alarm bells about this for years.'

More than half of the households reporting harassment were owner-occupiers and 38 per cent were council or housing association tenants.

The report comes two weeks after Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, chose to focus on racism in his first major speech. He warned that the police had a pivotal role and officers had to be 'totally

intolerant' of racist behaviour.

Of London's 480,000 ethnic minority households 10 per cent say they have suffered racial harassment (sample: 6,500).

64 per cent of victims claim a member of the household was verbally abused; 24 per cent claim physical assault, and 17 per cent threats.

Incidents were reported to the police in 51 per cent of all cases and 59 per cent of assaults.

32 per cent of households said they still felt threatened.

55 per cent of victims were owner-occupiers, 38 per cent council or association tenants, 7 per cent private tenants.

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