Police launch campaign to tackle hate crime

A hate crime victim is backing a police campaign urging other victims to report the offence.

The initiative is focusing on workers in night-time industries such as fast-food outlets, convenience stores, taxi driving and door security as they are said to be most at risk of experiencing hate crime.

More than 6,700 hate crimes were recorded in Scotland in 2017/18 and two-thirds (66%) of them involved people being targeted because of their race.

Taxi driver Muhammad Saqib, president of the Scottish Ethnic Private Hire Welfare Association (SEPHWA), was first targeted around 12 years ago.

He said: “When it happened I wasn’t surprised but I was shocked. I was only doing my job, a group of guys called me for a taxi after their night-out and my job was to take them home.

“It was a very scary experience. It was the middle of the night and they started threatening me, almost getting physical. There are no barriers in the car, I was driving around in the dark and I felt unsafe.

“These things always happen if there is any major news event to do with Islam around the world. When the incident happened at Glasgow airport and the Manchester arena bombing, it was a hard time for ethnic drivers, especially Muslim drivers. You are targeted.

“If I am targeted I don’t tell my family. If they find out, they ask me to stop doing my job. But somebody has to do it. My advice is whatever your experience is, the best way to deal with it is to share it with others which will be beneficial to them and society.”

Mr Saqib said people may not report what happened because they might not be sure how the police will treat the incident or may be concerned about issues such as a language barrier and potential loss of earnings.

He urged people not to accept hate crime and to report it at a third party reporting centre if they do not want to go to the police.

SEPHWA was established in 2008 and is one of Police Scotland’s third party reporting centres.

The organisation was set up to give ethnic people a voice, raise awareness of hate crime and act as a bridge between ethnic private hire drivers and the police.

Of the hate crimes recorded in 2017/18, 16% had a sexual orientation aggravation and 7% a religious aggravation.

The police campaign runs from February 18 until March 10.

Chief Superintendent John McKenzie, head of Safer Communities, said: “Hate crime can have a devastating impact upon victims, their families and wider communities.

“It can leave victims feeling isolated and fearful of what might happen next. It’s important people know they can report it and how to report it.

“We work with partners including the Scottish Government to raise awareness and encourage the reporting of hate crime.

“If victims don’t feel comfortable reporting the matter directly to police they can report to third party reporting centres who have staff that can identify hate crimes and offer support to victims.”

Partners in this year’s campaign include the Scottish Grocers Federation, Just Eat, the Security Industry Authority and Scottish Licensed Trade Association.