Around 300 asylum seekers – mostly Iraqi Kurds – gathered at Pearson Park in Hull this week to demand a stronger response from Humberside police to the racist attacks they are suffering.
In the last two weeks, the number of assaults against asylum seekers and refugees in Hull has increased dramatically. A number of victims allege that they have been attacked with Stanley knives and cricket bats in what appears to be an organised campaign. There have also been a number of alleged incidents in which Iraqis walking along Hull’s streets have been rammed by cars. In one attack, two Iraqi men appear to have been followed by three cars, one of which then mounted the pavement and collided with one of the men, throwing him into the air. The victim suffered severe leg injuries, including two broken bones and a dislocated ankle. A man was subsequently arrested for the attack and then released on bail.
The Iraqi community in Hull believes that the recent spate of attacks is linked to the release, a few weeks ago, of a former prisoner, who is said to be directing the hate campaign. Many Iraqis are frustrated at the police’s seeming inability to rein in the gang thought to be behind these attacks, despite information provided to them by the victims. Dashty Jamal of the Federation of Iraqi Refugees – which co-ordinated Sunday’s protest – claims that thirteen Iraqis have been attacked in the last two weeks and that these attacks were reported to the police. One Iraqi man says that when the attack on him was reported to the police, he was told to go back to his own country.
The gathering of asylum seekers in Pearson Park last Sunday came at the end of a weekend of clashes in the city. Police deployed extra patrols in the centre of Hull in anticipation of unrest. Shortly before midnight on Friday, violence broke out in a city centre car park between Iraqi asylum seekers and white men and women. Around 50 people were involved, many armed with baseball bats and lead pipes. The incident resulted in twelve arrests. Three Iraqis were charged with public order offences, three with possession of an offensive weapon and two with racially aggravated harassment. Three white men also faced charges of public order or affray.
The racial tension continued on the Saturday, as a group returning from a Hull City football match confronted Iraqis. A further seven white men were also later charged in connection with the weekend’s events, four with racially aggravated harassment.
A survey of black and minority ethnic communities in Hull in 2001 found that 40 per cent had suffered some form of racist abuse. In the same year, an asylum seeker was stabbed in the throat and another lost an eye in a catapult attack.