Half of young Eastern Europeans living in Scotland and England have experienced a rise in racism and xenophobia since the Brexit vote, according to research published today.
As well as verbal abuse, some also said they had experienced violent attacks since the referendum, the study of over 1,000 young people from places such as Poland, Lithuania and Romania found.
The research is the first formal analysis since the Brexit vote of how the UK’s plans to the leave the EU are affecting the lives of young Eastern Europeans both north and south of the border.
Academics from the universities of Strathclyde, Plymouth and Durham surveyed 1,120 people aged between 12 and 18 from Eastern Europe who had lived in the UK for at least three years.
Almost half (49.3 per cent) of those surveyed said they had experienced more racism and xenophobia since the Brexit referendum, with 23.6 per cent saying they had seen no change.
Although 62.6 per cent said they felt they belonged in the UK, the vast majority (84.2 per cent) said they did not feel hopeful about Brexit and were unsure if they would keep living here.
The researchers, who will present their findings at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Newcastle today, also talked to 20 groups of young Eastern Europeans at schools and youth clubs in England and Wales.
One 18-year-old Polish woman told them she had experienced “being called a prostitute based on my background” and had also been told to “go back to my own country”.
She also reported several more severe incidents, saying she once had “rocks thrown at me” and was also “chased down the street by a group of teenage boys”.
A 17-year-old boy, also from Poland, told researchers: “I moved here when I was six years old, and even though I speak English with a British accent as a result of using it for over 11 years, when people find out I am Polish, I often face racism and discrimination. I find that I belong as long as no-one finds out my nationality.”
Some of those surveyed also said the Brexit referendum had changed their feelings about their local neighbourhoods, as hostility towards immigrants was expressed openly by people they knew.
Kolin, 17, from Poland, said: “I was once talking about Brexit with my lecturer.
“He said I was lucky because you can’t tell I’m Polish by the way I speak. I don’t want to stay in a country in which I need to hide my nationality to be treated equally.”
Around 70 per cent of the respondents lived in England while around 20 per cent were from Scotland.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There is absolutely no place for racism or xenophobia in Scotland – these findings are deeply concerning.
“Since the EU referendum result, Scottish Government has made clear to EU nationals living here that they are very welcome and their contribution is valued and that Scotland remains an open and welcoming place to live and work.
“It is vital that the UK government engages with EU nationals affected by Brexit, to ensure that their valid concerns are reflected in on-going negotiations.”