Race hate crime against young people in Suffolk soars
PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:43 31 May 2019
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Reported cases of race hate crime against young people aged 18 and under in Suffolk have nearly doubled in recent years, figures have shown.
The statistics come following a Freedom of Information request submitted to Suffolk Constabulary by the NSPCC, which revealed the shocking rise from April 1 2015 to March 31 2018.
In 2015/16 34 crimes were reported in Suffolk, rising to 52 in 2016/17 and again to 66 in 2017/18 - a 94pc increase in the time period, the second highest recorded increase in the east of England.
Victims in Suffolk included families out with their children as young as four years old, as well as a family with a baby aged less than one.
One 10-year-old girl told Childine she tried to make her face whiter to fit in at school, having been bullied since starting education.
"My friends won't hang out with me anymore because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin," she said.
"I was born in the UK but bullies tell me to go back to my own country. I don't understand because I'm from the UK."
Head of Childline, John Cameron, said: "Childhood bullying of this nature can cause long-term emotional harm to children and can create further divisions in our society.
"If we see a child bullying another because of their race we need to tackle it head on, by explaining that it's not ok and how hurtful it is."
Childline counsellor, Atiyah Wazir, added: "Over the eight years that I've volunteered as a counsellor it is just as heart-breaking every single time a child tells you they wish they looked different.
"These children have been made to feel shame and guilt and sometimes daren't tell their mums or dads about it because they don't want to worry or hurt their feelings.
"I want every child to know that this bullying is not ok, they have nothing to be ashamed of, and Childline is always here to listen."
A spokesman for Suffolk police said: "Suffolk Constabulary takes every incident of hate crime very seriously, with incidents investigated thoroughly - particularly those involving youths and children.
"We work hard with partners to raise awareness of what a hate crime is and we want victims to be confident in coming forward. We also regularly review our overall response to hate crime and continue to improve our work with communities.
"Through our schools liaison officers we also engage with schools on a range of issues including hate crime. We welcome any support from our partners who can offer support to young victims and work with schools to tackle 'Hate' in Suffolk."
Essex was the only county of the six to see a reduction, from 151 cases in 2016/17 to 141 in 2017/18.
Victims are encouraged to contact Childline on 0800 1111 and more information is available on the Suffolk police website.