The number of racist incidents reported in Ireland rose by 11 per cent last year, with the State's Muslim community experiencing a marked increase in discrimination, the Immigrant Council of Ireland has said.
A total of 240 racist incidents, including verbal harassment, physical violence and property damage, were reported to the Immigrant Council of Ireland in 2015.
Some 40 per cent of the reports came from Ireland’s Muslim community.
However, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland Brian Killoran warns that the "vast majority" of racist incidences are never reported.
“People don’t know what to do or where to report it and they think nothing will actually happen if they report.
“We hear from people who experience this kind of thing on a daily basis and it’s only after having experienced it for months that they finally go, ‘I can’t take this anymore’.
Mr Killoran said many people fear “rocking the boat” and do not want to report incidences of hate crime to an institution they associate with their immigration status.
“They don’t want to be on the [Garda] Pulse system, even if they’re reporting a crime.”
Mr Killoran was speaking at the launch of the #StopRacism campaign, which encourages people using public transport to report racism.
The #StopRacism posters will appear across transport networks, including Dublin Bus, Iarnród Éireann, Transdev, local link bus services and regional taxi operators, from this Friday .
The campaign, which is in its fourth year, is a joint initiative between the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the National Transport Authority.
Mr Killoran commended An Garda Síochána for introducing a Pulse system last year to record instances of racism, but said that without concrete hate crime legislation, gardaí would not have the tools necessary to address the issue.
“We don’t have the same types of structures around hate crime legislation or racially-motivated anti-social behaviour that you have in other jurisdictions.
“You really need those deterrents and punitive measures to make sure that if somebody reports something, the guards know what to do with it and that there is a penalty they can attach to it.
“Our hate crime legislation in Ireland is hugely outdated and completely non-fit for purpose.”
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said in May that she had approved a review of the Prohibition of Incitement of Hatred Act, 1989, and that the outcome of the review would inform the case for legislative change.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice confirmed that the review is ongoing and “will be completed as soon as possible”.
Sammy Akorede, a customer service officer and ticket inspector with Transdev Luas services, said that without legislation that prosecutes and punishes those guilty of hate crime, incidences of racism will continue to rise.
“We need prosecutions,” said Mr Akorede.
“The posters help, but as long as people get away with it, there could be millions of posters and it wouldn’t help.
“Somebody can abuse you and just walk away. Gardaí are more effective when it’s physical abuse. That’s why verbal abuse is on the rise.”
Mr Akorede, an Irish citizen who is originally from Nigeria and has lived in Ireland for 16 years, said he experienced verbal racist abuse as a ticket inspector on a daily basis. He has also experienced physical abuse.
“It’s getting worse to be honest. The fact that they get away with it encourages them to do more.”
Mr Akorede said he has been called a “f***ing monkey”, told to “go back to your country” and been spat on by Luas customers.
He said that while only a small number of people are responsible for these racist slurs, very few customers come to his aid when he is being verbally abused.
“Even if they are abusing us in a full, packed tram, no well-meaning citizens will come up, or it’s very rare . . . nobody comes to your defence, everybody keeps quiet.
“After the guy leaves, we see people coming up to us and saying, ‘Sorry, we’re not all like that’. But hey, the damage has been done.
“We would like people to stand up against such people and for [the perpetrator] to know that he’s alone, rather than keeping quiet.”