Foreigners, including Portuguese, claim to be the victims of a growing number of attacks following the referendum which saw the UK leave the EU last Friday.
Many incidents went viral on social media last week, with British authorities reportedly registering a spike in hate crimes since 23 June 2016.
Website TrueVision, a platform created to report hate crimes (including racial, religious or sexual discrimination) registered a rise of 57 percent more cases between last Thursday and Sunday compared with the whole of the previous month.
A report by national newspaper Diário de Notícias carried a number of complaints of xenophobic attacks on Portuguese emigrants living in various parts of the UK.
The newspaper states incidents have been reported in London, Wales and Norfolk, among others, according to members of the Portuguese community in Britain, who add that not all incidents are reported for fear of reprisals.
Emigrant Fátima Lourenço, a cleaner who has lived in the UK for 13 years, says she was left shaken after being set upon last Friday by a group of youths sporting a British flag, who spat in her face and assaulted her in the street.
“Some people reacted, who called them names and came to apologise. I wasn’t expecting it, I felt humiliated and I had to cry to let it out”, she told Lusa News Agency, adding: “It’s not just us [Portuguese] that it is happening to. My partner works with Poles and they also said they have been insulted.”
Iolanda Banu Viegas, an advisor for Portuguese Communities in Wrexham, Wales, confirmed a number of similar situations, namely concerning spiteful comments from work colleagues or verbal abuse near Portuguese establishments in that city.
She told Lusa she had witnessed cases of people “coming up close and shouting ‘go home’. Provocations.”
Cláudia Martins, a bus driver in Wrexham, also complained of experiencing “hostility” in her local post office when she went to ask for information about residency, following the advice of the Portuguese government.
“The man looked at me, said I was in the wrong place, then laughed with his colleague. I felt bad. But seeing as I always do the same bus route I’ve had people bringing me flowers and chocolates and asking me to stay”, she recounted.
In Thetford, Norfolk, Portuguese national Joe Barreto, founder of the non-profit organisation Simple, confirmed he too has been the victim of xenophobia.
“A car stopped near my family, they spat at us and insulted us. I told the police but many Portuguese here don’t want to talk for fear of reprisals,” he told Lusa.
Another emigrant described being physically assaulted by their boss, and Joe Barreto claims, “There are people getting ready to return to Portugal because of what is happening and for fear of what might come.”
António Cunha, Counsellor for Portuguese Communities, and Guilherme Rosa, a councillor for Stockwell, South London, both confirm knowing about more cases involving hate crimes against Portuguese in the British capital, having learned of them mainly through social networks.
However, Cunha stressed, the Portuguese are not a specific target for these types of incidents, and said “there is no reason for alarm.”
At the time of going to press, the Embassy and the Portuguese consulate in London say they have not received any official reports of attacks against Portuguese.