RACE hate crimes against children have risen by nearly half over the past three years.

Essex Police recorded 141 offences of that nature in 2017/18, which is up from 97 in 2015/16.

There were actually as many as 151 offences recorded in 2016/17.

The figures have been released after a Freedom of Information request from the NSPCC.

Children have revealed to the charity’s Childline service they were being targeted because of the way they looked and even told to “go back to their own country”.

Other youngsters have also tried to change their appearance by using make up and even kept the abuse from their parents for fear of upsetting them.

Across the UK, 10,571 offences were recorded against children - an average of almost 29 every day.

One ten-year-old girl said: “The bullies call me nasty names - it makes me feel so ashamed.

“My friends won’t hang out with me anymore 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.”

Childline counsellor Atiyah Wazir said it was devastating to hear youngsters being targeted.

She said “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.

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

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

Head of Childline John Cameron 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.”