Race hate crime offences against children have escalated to a three-year high with babies and toddlers amongst the victims, an investigation by the NSPCC has found.
There were 10, 571 race hate crimes against children recorded by police across the country in 2017/18, an average of almost 29 offences a day. The figures have risen by more than a fifth since 2015/16 when 8,683 offences were recorded.
Yorkshire’s largest police force - West Yorkshire Police - saw a 73 per cent rise with 423 race hate crimes recorded against children in 2017/18.
There was a 40 per cent increase in North Yorkshire with 40 offences recorded and a 19 per cen rise in South Yorkshire with 106 offences.
The NSPCC’s Freedom of Information request to police forces across the UK has shown that toddlers and babies yet to reach their first birthday were amongst the victims of race hate crimes.
Children also told the NSPCC-run service Childline they were targeted because of the way they looked and said they had been told to “go back to their own country”.
Some tried to change their appearance by using make up, while others said they did not want to tell their parents for fear of upsetting them.
One victim, a 10-year-old girl, said: “I’ve been bullied ever since I started school. The bullies call me nasty names and it makes me feel so ashamed.
“My friends won’t hang out with me anymore because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin. I was born in the UK but bullies tell me to go back to my own country. I don’t understand because I’m from the UK.
“I’ve tried to make my face whiter before using make up so that I can fit in. I just want to enjoy going to school.”
Childline held 2,617 counselling sessions about race and faith based bullying between 2015/16 and 2017/18.
The NSPCC investigation revealed girls were more likely to speak to Childline than boys, and the most common age group to get in touch about the issue was children aged 12-15.
Childline counsellor Atiyah Wazir said: “Over the eight years that I’ve volunteered as a counsellor it is just as heart-breaking every single time a child tells you they wish they looked different.
"These children have been made to feel shame and guilt and sometimes daren’t tell their mums or dads about it because they don’t want to worry or hurt their feelings.
“I want every child to know that this bullying is not OK, they have nothing to be ashamed of, and Childline is always here to listen.”
Head of Childline John Cameron said: “Childhood bullying of this nature can cause long term emotional harm to children and can create further divisions in our society. If we see a child bullying another because of their race we need to tackle it head on, by explaining that it’s not OK and how hurtful it is. I would urge any child who is being targeted because of their race to contact Childline, and any adult to call the Helpline if they are worried about a child.”
West Yorkshire Police is encouraging people to report any incidents of race hate crimes.
A force spokesman said: “Reporting it when it happens will help police deal with it and may prevent these incidents from happening to someone else. You will also help the police understand the extent of hate crime in your local area so they can better respond to it."