Racist hate crimes in England soared last month when coronavirus restrictions were eased, a charity has said.
Figures released by Victim Support on Friday showed 514 people in England and Wales sought help from the charity after being the victim of a “race and nationality” offence in the week beginning 29 March.
This date coincides with when people in England were first allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six or two households after months of lockdown.
The charity said it was up a “shocking” 73% compared to the average number of referrals between 6 January and 1 March, when the lockdown was at its strictest.
Victim Support said it “raises concerns about the link between easing and hate crime”.
It added the spikes could also be linked to the beginning of the George Floyd murder trial in the US, which also started on 29 March.
Floyd, a Black man, was killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest. Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter on Tuesday.
The charity also cited the “Stop Asian Hate” campaign, which began in response to violent attacks against Asian-Americans during the pandemic.
Victim Support said these will have helped “increase awareness and empowered people to come forward and seek support”.
Watch: Ex-police officer found guilty of murder and manslaughter in George Floyd case
Yahoo News UK has previously reported how racist attacks towards east and south-east Asians have also spiked in the UK during the pandemic.
The actual number of racist hate crimes since 29 March will be higher than the 514 publicised by Victim Support on Friday, as the charity only records the number of people who go to it for help. Hate crimes are also known to be under-reported to the authorities.
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of Victim Support, which provides help to victims of all types of crime, said: “We are extremely concerned that we’ve seen this huge jump in racially aggravated hate crime and very strongly condemn all types of discrimination.”
Fawcett said that for many people, abuse can “damage their sense of safety, wellbeing and self-worth which takes years to rebuild”.
She added: “We want victims to know that hate crime is a serious offence and there is support available to anyone who needs it. No one should ever fear being abused or discriminated against simply because of the way that they look or colour of their skin.”
Meanwhile, all hate crime referrals were up 67% compared to the average numbers between 6 January and 1 March.
Responding to the figures, a government spokesman said: “All forms of racism are completely unacceptable and racist abuse should never take place in our society. We continue support the police in bringing offenders to justice.”
Watch: President Joe Biden speaks after George Floyd verdict