Suspected race hate crimes on Britain's railways jumped sharply following the EU referendum, new figures show.
In the fortnight after the poll, British Transport Police recorded 119 incidents including allegations of racist abuse and attacks at stations, equivalent to eight every day.
The number of alleged race hate offences logged by the force between 24 June and 7 July amounted to a 57 per cent increase, compared with the previous two weeks and an even sharper rise of 78 per cent on the equivalent period last year.
The findings, described by one campaign group as "very worrying", chime with a spike revealed in data from forces around the country. A spate of reported incidents sparked fears of a wave of xenophobic abuse following the vote to leave the EU.
BTP statistics for the two weeks after the referendum, obtained by the Press Association following a Freedom of Information request, show that:
- There were 11 alleged race hate offences on 25 June, the day after the outcome of the vote was announced;
- Public order crimes were the most commonly recorded incidents, with dozens of suspects said to have made racist comments towards passengers or staff;
- In one episode at Hastings station in East Sussex on 26 June, a suspect allegedly shouted at a victim who was speaking in Polish;
- There were three alleged instances of racially or religiously aggravated actual bodily harm, including one in which the victim was "perceived to be attacked due to their nationality";
- At the time the FOI response was issued earlier this month, 22 people had been arrested in relation to the cases recorded in the fortnight after the referendum was held;
- The 119 alleged race hate crimes in the period compared with 76 recorded between 10 June and the day of the referendum on 23 June, and 67 between 24 June and 7 July in 2015.
Bruce Williamson, of campaign group Railfuture, said: "Every passenger should be able to enter a station and board a train without fear of abuse or worse.
"These latest figures are very worrying, and they highlight the continuing need for staff presence at stations and on board trains."
Rose Simkins, chief executive of charity Stop Hate UK, said: "While we are encouraged that people have found confidence to report incidents due to the national publicity on the issue, it is a sad fact that the numbers of all hate incidents are extremely under-reported. We consistently hear from victims that one of the reasons they do not report incidents is a lack of confidence in authorities to deal with the issue.
"We would encourage BTP to look closely at the type of incidents being reported and take the opportunity to assess how effective their hate crime strategies are."
BTP polices Britain's railways as well as a number of urban networks such as London Underground.
Superintendent Chris Horton, of BTP, said: "Hate crime is totally unacceptable and has no place in society or on the rail network. We are aware that hate crime is under-reported and so in order to tackle it effectively, we need the public to stand up to those committing these sickening acts and report it to us. We will take every report seriously.
"We will always work tirelessly to ensure those who threaten or intimidate passengers are brought to justice."
Last month it was revealed that more than 6,000 alleged hate crimes and incidents were reported to police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the four weeks from the middle of June. There was a slight fall after an initial spike, but the volume of reports was still around a third higher than the equivalent period last year.
Ministers have launched a new hate crime action plan, including steps to tackle offences perpetrated on public transport.
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