LONDON – British police said on Monday that they had charged seven people over a suspected hate-crime attack against a 17-year-old Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker in London.
Between 20 and 30 people were involved in the attack on the teenager while he was at a bus stop with two friends outside a pub in Croydon, south London, last Friday night.
"It is understood that the suspects asked the victim where he was from and when they established that he was an asylum seeker, they chased him and launched a brutal attack," police investigator Gary Castle said.
"He sustained serious head and facial injuries as a result of this attack, which included repeated blows to the head by a large group of attackers," he said.
Castle condemned violence against "those who have come to London to seek refuge and a place of safety".
Speaking at the scene on Monday, police detective Jane Corrigan said the teenager’s condition was not thought to be life-threatening.
"Thankfully we anticipate that he will recover from injuries but this horrific incident will no doubt have a lasting impact on him," she said, appealing for witnesses to come forward.
The seven people charged are aged 17 to 24 and live locally, while police anticipate making further arrests.
A Croydon resident, 36-year-old Poshtivan Rahim, told the Guardian he had seen the victim in the area at least two or three times.
"He had just come to the UK, it’s not even been a year, I believe. He was quiet, he used to take a stroll in this area and have tea," Rahim told the newspaper.
The attack has been widely condemned, with local MP Gavin Barwell describing the attackers as "scum".
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said hate crime "has no place in London, Britain or anywhere else," and the Refugee Council charity said it was "disgusted" by the attack.
An online fundraising page set up to support the victim has so far raised more than £17,000 ($21,200, 19,900 euros).
The Daily Mail tabloid called the assailants "SAVAGES" in a front-page headline and compared the attack to the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager set upon by a gang of white youths in 1993 in another part of south London.
There were more than 62,000 hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales last year compared with some 52,500 the previous year -- an increase of nearly a fifth. – AFP