UK helpline launched for east and south-east Asian victims of racism

·3 min read

A free nationwide 24-hour helpline offering support for east and south-east Asian victims of racism and other forms of hate in the UK has been launched.

The On Your Side helpline will be run by specialist advisers to provide tailored and culturally sensitive support. Longer-term support from a trained casework advocate will be offered, with case workers helping people understand their rights and direct them to specialist support services.

The service operates seven days a week and was created in response to the “dramatic rise” in hate crime directed towards the people from east and south-east Asian backgrounds in the UK since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, organisers said. This increase had highlighted the gap in support and reporting services, the organisers added.

On Your Side, which is described as the first of its kind in the UK, is being funded by the Hong Kong British nationals (overseas) welcome programme through the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Helpline operators speak various languages including Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka and Hokkien, Tagalog and Indonesian, but can support victims in any language with support from trusted interpreters.

The service has been developed by a consortium of 15 national and community-based organisations with expertise in hate crime reporting, hate crime prevention and supporting east and south-east Asian victims of racial abuse.

Kimi Jolly, the executive director of ESA Scotland, one of the organisations involved, said: “People from east and south-east Asian communities have experienced a huge increase in verbal and physical racially motivated attacks yet, up to now, there has been no support tailored to them in terms of language, cultural awareness and being able to record their ethnicity accurately.

“I know the impact of this first-hand. I’ve been violently assaulted, harassed and verbally abused. During the pandemic, I was asked to leave a shop when other people weren’t. I had sanitiser sprayed all over me on a bus. And I’m not alone in experiencing such incidents. Some people still don’t consider racial jokes made towards members of the east and south-east Asian community as actually being a form of racism.”

Hau-Yu Tam, the head of campaigns at End Violence and Racism Against East and South-East Asian Communities, said: “We know people can be fearful, reluctant or unsure how to report hate crimes and incidents. Using this service means that community members who are calling or writing in will be centred in the process.

“They are the ones to decide what, if any, information will be shared with the police. While the number and nature of incidents will be recorded, details remain confidential unless the individual would like help reporting the crime. The primary focus for us is to assist in an appropriate, caring, joined-up way. Everyone deserves to feel safe, respected and supported.”

Andy Fearn, the co-executive director of Protection Approaches, the charity leading the consortium, said: “During a consultation we conducted to inform the design of this service we spoke to over 150 people from east and south-east Asian backgrounds. Two in five had been victims of a hate crime or hate incident in the last two years. More than half of those incidents were never reported, while fewer than a quarter sought any form of support afterwards.

“We repeatedly heard that east and south-east Asian victims of hate crime do not report what has happened to them because they are afraid of dealing with the police and don’t think the police or other reporting services will believe them or take their report seriously. Others told us that they had difficulties accessing reporting and support services because of language and other barriers.”