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Trust in the police among migrant communities is highlighted in the comic 'What is coming'.

Trust in Police among Migrant Communities

Many migrants do not report hate crime because they have little trust in public organisations. This is often informed by the impact of past negative experiences when dealing with public organisations in their own countries. Loretta Trickett explains how this can then become a barrier to accessing public services.

The lack of trust in public institutions has a profound impact on migrant communities and constitute the biggest barrier to lack of engagement and reporting of crimes to the police or alternative services in the UK. This can be particularly detrimental when considering that new migrants often encounter incidences of racism/discrimination and hate crimes. Many of these individuals were not aware of what a hate crime was or of how to report it.

Definition of hate crime: ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’ (Metropolitan Police)

Hate crimes involve the incidents that happen because of someone’s prejudice towards a person based on race, religion, sexual orientation or because they are transgender. Even if not all incidents will amount to criminal offences, it is nevertheless, very important to report on them. The types of hate crime include physical assault, verbal abuse and incitement to hatred.

Trust in the police when hate crimes have been committed is significant given that the impact of hate crimes is often profound, especially upon newer communities who may already be experiencing anxiety around being within a new country away from everything that they have known and where they are in a minority situation.

Hate crimes were experienced by all of the communities that were interviewed and the offenders were found to be predominantly school children but also included neighbours, the general public and even hostility from other migrant groups including their own.

It was found that Muslim women, in particular, are highly fearful of abuse on the streets due to suffering regular hostile incidents in their daily lives whilst taking children to school, shopping, travelling on public transport and attending sites of religious worship. The findings from our research fall in line with previous research conducted by Tell MAMA (2018) where their report found the majority of anti-Muslim hatred is directed at Muslim women identified by their religious dress. Over 50% of reported incidents featured Muslim women as victims. Thus, Muslim women face double discrimination, because of their gender and because of their religion. When a person is discriminated or disadvantaged due to the overlapping social categorisations, as in this case, that of gender and religion, it is called intersectionality.

There were many other examples of perceived prejudice from landlords, taxi-drivers and members of the public including potential employers, teachers and health professionals. This was especially felt by Muslim women, particularly affecting their freedom of movement and feelings of security. It was notable that many of these hate crimes and incidents went unreported largely because people had a legacy of distrusting the police in their own countries. These issues are demonstrated in the ‘What is Coming’ comic.

The report also demonstrated that one effective way of how to deal with instances of hate crime is the need to educate vulnerable groups about the criminal law as the lack of education and knowledge of the issue often makes people more vulnerable and prevents them from reporting. Taking a course on self-defence, and a key contact who was helping with settlement, were both mentioned as helping women to start feeling safe and happier in the UK.

Because of the lack of trust in public institutions, and notably, the police, the issue of the importance of building this trust was raised. Respondents felt that the police need to do a lot more to build trust with migrant communities, particularly with young people, and certain migrant groups who due to negative treatment and historical stigmatisation have a significant distrust of the police. Respondents believed that this would help breaking down the stereotypes through which they are sometimes perceived by organisations and which leads them to be ‘othered’ and often misunderstood. This is crucial as the reluctance of many migrant groups to engage with the police and other organisations, even when they are trying to reach out to them, is largely about distrust.

It was made clear from the interviews that there is a real issue with the police turning up in uniform to speak with members of migrant groups as this clearly identifies them as an authority figure who may exercise ‘force’ against you. Therefore, it was suggested that the police need to approach outreach work with migrant communities through non-uniform community officers.

It is essential that the role of the Police Community Support Officer (PCOS) is fully explained to migrants, in particular, with respect to them having far fewer powers than traditional police officers and that they are unable to arrest people but that they are there to serve the community and to help them resolve problems. This is a key issue because in terms of outreach and community engagement it will be PCSOs who are usually despatched but who also through their less ‘authoritarian’ role offer the best potential to effectively engage with marginalised communities.

As the report has shown, educational measures should be undertaken to inform new and emerging communities about their rights, what hate crime is, how to report it, and conduct the events that will foster building trust in police (through engagement with non-uniformed police officers) through community outreach. To build trust and relationships, organisations need to act promptly with their communications, attend more community events and signpost information on services available.

Taken from Dr. Loretta Trickett and Amanda Hanson with James Walker and Mahad Haq, ‘New and Emerging Communities,’ August 2019.

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Mentioned in this article

‘Beyond the Incident: Outcomes for victims of Anti-Muslim Prejudice’. Faith Matters. (2018). Tell Mama UK

‘What is Hate Crime?’ Metropolitan Police Metropolitan Police Advice