Recent attacks against foreign nationals, including the murder of a Czech businessman in London, have led Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to appeal to his British counterpart, Theresa May, to take action to ensure such crimes aren’t repeated. While the murder is not believed to have been hate-related, other attacks in the post-Brexit climate have been. On Friday, it was even suggested that if the situation were to worsen, Czech police officers could be sent over to help.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, upon receiving condolences from his British counterpart, Theresa May, over the murder of a Czech national, urged her to take action against the growing number of hate crimes reported in the UK. The problem has come to the fore in post-Brexit Britain which has seen a number of attacks against Poles, one of them fatal. In August, Polish national Arkadiusz Jozwik was murdered by a gang of youths in Harlow in Essex in what police are investigating as a hate crime.
While a similar fatal attack against a Czech businessman, Zdeněk Makar, was reportedly not motivated by hate, Prime Minister Sobotka has asked for assurances that such crimes won’t be repeated and that the situation won’t worsen. I asked Jan Jůn, a UK-based journalist, how he saw Mr Sobotka’s appeal.
“Looking at it from the British end, there might be justification in it; on the other hand, based on what was reported here, this tragedy was the case of a pub-style brawl and not an attack motivated by any nationalistic hatred. That said – there have been reports of attacks by right-wing extremists on foreign establishments, so it is a problem and such a reminder [by Mr Sobotka] can be useful.”
As far as the British government is concerned, do you think the cabinet will take steps to tackle the rise in tensions, to allay the fears of foreign nationals working in the UK long-term, to make clear to others that violence and hate are not something to be tolerated?
“I suppose they will. But they must take into account all of the tensions which led to the Brexit itself, over migration, and there are certainly areas, poor and poorest areas in Britain, where foreign workers are seen as taking jobs and opportunities away from others. All of this together serves as a kind of irritation to many people in Britain and that has to somehow be controlled.”
Fears among the Polish community in Harlow in Essex, where Polish national Arkadiusz Jozwik died, led Warsaw to send two Polish police officers over. Their job: to provide in the face of growing tensions. A similar move could be taken by the Czech authorities, Police President Tomáš Tuhý agreed on Friday, if conditions worsened, although he made clear that was not the case at the moment. The spike in hate crimes in post-Brexit Britain is obviously a worrying one condemned by many, among them the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. In his recent state of the union address in Strasbourg, he told MEPs that “Europeans would never accept Poles being beaten up, harassed, or murdered in the streets of Essex”.
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