'Alarming' rise in number of racist incidents last year

The number of people targeted by racist behaviour has almost doubled over the last year, new figures have revealed.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland described the 85% rise in racist incidents as “stark”, with a fifth of attacks happening in the home or local community.

Chief executive Denise Charlton said while the figures that reflect the past 11 months are preliminary, the hike is still alarming.

“These initial findings show that racism can occur anywhere, people have been made victims in their own homes, at work, on the street and increasingly online,” Ms Charlton said.

“We will now carry out analysis of the figures to see why our current laws are not preventing racism and examine what procedures can be in put place, including a reformed reporting system.”

Some 142 racist incidents have been reported since January, compared with 77 over the same period last year.

Harassment, discrimination and physical violence were all reported to the council, with 31 incidents recorded in July alone.

While 21% of incidents occurred at the victim’s home or in their local community, 20% happened in the workplace, 14% on the street, 12% while accessing government or community services, 12% online, 10% while travelling in public transport and the remainder elsewhere.

Verbal harassment accounted for more than a third of all types of abuse, followed by some form of discrimination at 24% and written harassment at 17%.

Just under one in 10 victims of racism were physically assaulted, 7% were targeted with damage to their property or graffiti and 7% with an offensive look or gesture.

Ms Charlton said the Immigrant Council had spent the last year pushing an awareness campaign on public transport and across social media to put an end to the complacency over racism.

“Our hope is that the increase we have reported is an indication that this has happened rather than an actual increase in racism,” she said.

The council’s information and referral manager Brian Killoran described the last 11 months as unprecedented in terms of the numbers reporting racist behaviour.

“People need to be continuously assured that they will be treated seriously when they make a report and that action will be taken,” he said.

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