RACIALLY aggravated hate crimes aimed at children have more than doubled in the past three years.

In some cases, toddlers and babies under a year old have been among the victims of these offences, according to new data released by the NSPCC.

Operators from Childline reported young children being abused because of the way they looked and being told to “go back to your own country”.

In Greater Manchester, the number of hate crimes reported against children rose by 155 per cent between 2015 and 2018, with an average of more than three incidents reported daily last year.

Childline experts say this kind of abuse can make children feel “shame and guilt”, with some youngsters not telling their parents because they do not want to hurt their feelings.

The research showed that girls were more likely to be victims of this abuse, and one 10-year-old girl told the NSPCC she had been bullied since the day she started school and had even tried to make her face whiter to help her “fit in”.

She said: “The bullies call me nasty names; it makes me feel so ashamed.

“My friends won’t hang out with me any more because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin.

“I was born in the UK but bullies tell me to go back to my own country. I don’t understand because I’m from the UK.

“I’ve tried to make my face whiter before, using make up so that I can fit in. I just want to enjoy going to school.”

Another girl, 11, said: “I’m being bullied at school because I’m Chinese. The other kids say that my skin is yellow, call me names, and it gets me really down.

“I hate the way I look so much, I think if I looked different everyone would stop being mean to me and I’d fit in. I’ve tried to change the way that I look by using eyeliner so that I fit in more.”

Police say the apparent increase in incidents is due to changes in the way crimes are reported and reflects the work officers have been doing to make sure victims come forward.

But, GMP says it is “absolutely committed” to combating these “abhorrent” incidents and has urged anyone who has been a victim to come forward.

READ MORE: Police say rise in 'abhorrent' child hate crime is down to changes in reporting

Dr Stephanie Dermott, interfaith co-ordinator at Bolton Interfaith Council, said it was “vital” that organisations work to overcome hate crime and “develop cohesion amongst our communities”.

She pointed to programmes of education designed to bring together young people of different cultures to tackle “false boundaries of division”.

“The figures released by the NSPCC highlight a worrying increase in hate crime directed at children and young people on the basis of race or faith,” she added.

“One of the ways in which Bolton Interfaith Council aims to do this is through education of young people themselves, in providing opportunities that aim to challenge and overturn stereotypes, through engaging in new experiences and asking questions.

“Through our longstanding Faith Trails programme, we offer visits to places of worship including Hindu Temples, Mosques and Churches, in which children are invited to learn about the shared values of faith traditions, and to dispel any apprehension towards difference and diversity.

“Faith Trails visits are also available to the wider community, as another step towards breaking down the false boundaries of division that damage our society. Sometimes a simple conversation can have a powerful impact, and positive experiences at any age can have a lasting effect.”

Often children dealing with hate crime will contact Childline — the charity which supports struggling young people — to speak about the ongoing impact of these issues.

Volunteer Childline counsellor Atiyah Wazir has dealt with a number of situations in which children have been subject to hate crime.

She said the impact of such incidents can lead to children feeling ashamed and not reaching out to authorities for help.

“Over the eight years that I’ve volunteered as a counsellor it is just as heart-breaking every single time a child tells you they wish they looked different,” she said.

“These children have been made to feel shame and guilt and sometimes dare not tell their mums or dads about it because they don’t want to worry or hurt their feelings.

“I want every child to know that this bullying is not ok, they have nothing to be ashamed of, and Childline is always here to listen.”

Ms Wazir was joined by head of Childline, John Cameron, who explained that abuse of this kind needs to be tackled “head on” before it cause divides within communities.

He said: “Childhood bullying of this nature can cause long term emotional harm to children and can create further divisions in our society.

“If we see a child bullying another because of their race we need to tackle it head on, by explaining that it’s not ok and how hurtful it is.”