COVID-19: the catalyst for Asian Hate Crime

Racial abuses and discriminatory behaviour have thrived online and offline since the outbreak of the pandemic particularly for the Asian community. 

Chinese and Asian minorities in general have become more conspicuous to attackers and subjects of high-profile hate crimes. With one such incident that took place in Atlanta, across three massage parlours six people were killed. Each of Asian descent, this sparked a movement online amongst young people to highlight the rise of such racist crimes. 

The Asian American community in particular has seen an increase in hate crime attacks after being demonized by the former president Donald Trump over the coronavirus outbreak.

But even in modern Ireland, a country of people that were once discriminated against, Asian hate crimes are on the rise. 

According to, Irish Network Against Racism (INAR)’s yearly iReport from 2020 racist perpetrators blamed the Asian community for the pandemic. 31 of the hate speech reports related directly to the pandemic. 

There has been an increasing surge of racism since the coronavirus hit. As far back as December, ethnic Asians in Ireland have reported discriminations fuelled by Coronavirus. 

Here are just some of the incidents:

A young woman was attacked in Dublin by a group of girls shouting, “you brought the virus here’, while another person said a friend had experienced people shouting the words ‘virus, virus’ at her.

A man from South Korea recounted his experience on the dart, where despite the dart being full, no one would sit beside him, opting to stand instead. He noted that ‘I definitely feel a change in the way people look at me’.

Mina Choi (51) interviewed by The Irish Times; said she doesn't feel safe after an attack by teenagers in central Dublin. 

“This is just the latest in the chain of violence and hate crime I’ve witnessed and [been] subjected to on the streets of Dublin,” she said. These incidents range from being called Asian slurs, to people whispering “Wuhan”, to threats of physical violence. 

 

According to the INAR report 60 coronavirus racist incidents were recorded in the first four months of 2020. Unsurprisingly, the biggest growth in reports related to online racism. Social Media incidents accounted for 594 reports in this period compared to 174 the year prior.

 

Shane O’Curry, director of INAR expressed how “COVID-19 is a trigger for racism and 80% of the incidents go off the record”. 

 

Xenophobia is being triggered by the pandemic and unfortunately Ireland is no exception. The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought with it deep-rooted fear of the unknown. Fear of the economic impacts of long-term lockdown.

 

Such fear can foster discrimination and some people want someone to blame. 

 

In 2020, psychological impacts and social isolation resulting from racist abuse more than doubled when compared to 2019.

 

Reporting of such types of discrimination is increasing, although most victims do not know where the best place to report their experiences is. 

 

Of the 99 incidents of illegal discrimination reported to iReport, 44% were not reported to anyone else. 17% were reported to An Garda Síochána, but 12 of these also included criminal offences. 

 

Of those who reported to An Garda Síochána just 27% of people were satisfied with the response. Many noted resistance to report to the guards due to poor response. 

 

Poor responses by Gardaí included refusing to record crimes, failing to attend the scene and collect evidence, failing to take statements from victims and investigate crimes, and failing to communicate updates to victims. 

 

The most common reason given for not reporting to the Gardaí was “I did not think the Gardaí would do anything”. 25% said “poor response from Gardaí to previous incidents”. 14% also said that they would be more inclined to report if they thought that the Gardaí would act on criminal offences that were of a racist nature.

 

In the interview conducted by The Irish Times, Mina Choi recounts her dissatisfactory encounter with the Gardaí upon reporting.

 

Ms Choi said she felt the garda was “unwilling to be outraged by what I was describing and to pursue the crime”. She said people will be discouraged from reporting such incidents if they are not taken seriously.

 

Low expectations of Gardaí effectiveness and good service are detrimental to the state’s ability to reduce racist crimes and protect ethnic minorities. 

 

The iReport explores alternative options whereby people who experienced crime would be more encouraged to report crimes to the Gardaí. Options included the availability of anonymous reporting at 20%, the option of a self-report form at 23% and if someone else could report on their behalf at 15% and contact with a Gardaí of the same ethnic/religious group at 8%. People who experienced other kinds of incidents also favoured anonymous reporting and self-report form at 77% each. 

 

If you are affected by issues in this article you can call to seek help reporting from any of the groups listed below:

CAIRDE, Dublin & Balbriggan T: 01 855 2111 E: [email protected] WEB: www.cairde.ie.

IRISH TRAVELLER MOVEMENT or any of its member organisations: T: 01 6796577 E: [email protected] WEB: www.itmtrav.ie

 IRISH REFUGEE COUNCIL Dublin T: 01 764 5854 E: [email protected] WEB: www.irishrefugeecouncil.ie 

You can also report a racist incident online at www.ireport.ie.