The Foreign Office has reiterated its advice to any black or Asian supporters going to Ukraine for this summer's European Championship that they face the possibility of being racially abused. On Wednesday Theo Walcott's family said they would not be travelling to Ukraine, where England will play their three group games, because of worries over racism. The Independent has been contacted by England fans who have cancelled trips to the finals for fear of receiving abuse, although the Ukrainian authorities insist it will not be a problem for any supporters.
The Foreign Office website, last updated at the end of April, advises: "Travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent should take extra care."
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said yesterday: "You cannot rule out the possibility of racism towards visiting fans. There is a risk in Poland and Ukraine as with many other countries where England play. We encourage visiting fans to report any incidents to the police."
Roy Hodgson drew fresh attention to the issue this week. Speaking after naming his squad for the finals, the England manager said: "There's no doubt that the issue of racism, and the Sky report into hooliganism, and the violence in the Ukraine is a concern to us all, not least the supporters who are going to go and maybe risk getting beaten up if they don't happen to be white."
Ukrainian authorities dismissed the Sky report, which highlighted the issue of hooliganism among local supporters, as the actions of a "few idiots". They also sought to downplay the likelihood of ethnic minorities being abused, claiming there have been few recent reported incidents.
"We would like to stress that there is absolutely no problem of this sort in Ukraine," said Volodymyr Khandogiy, the country's ambassador to the UK. "We are surprised by this issue being raised now. We have had a few minor incidents and the reaction was how it should be. There is no need to have fear for the Euros. I guarantee that all fans, no matter their nationality or colour, will enjoy the football festival."
Over 80,000 police and stewards in Ukraine are receiving anti-discrimination training ahead of the finals, which begin on 8 June.
The attitude of the Ukrainian police towards racist attacks has been highlighted by the US State Department. Its advice to travellers to Ukraine says: "The police and government's slow response to hate crimes is a continuing concern. Although senior government officials have publicly deplored these hate crimes, street-level law enforcement officials are either unwilling or unable to deter hate crimes effectively or protect racial minorities adequately."
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