Recession results in rise in racism - claim

PUBLISHED: 10:00 10 December 2010

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RACISM is growing in Weston and Worle as the recession bites hard on the town, according to a regional anti-racism support group.

Support Against Racist Incidents (Sari) says it is dealing with more racist incidents than ever before in the district.

So far this financial year the group has worked on 20 cases in North Somerset, compared to 26 for the whole of 2009/10 and 29 in 2008/09.

Director Batook Pandya said the majority of incidents targeted eastern Europeans, and most in the district occur in Weston.

They include abusive letters in the post, verbal abuse in the street and graffiti on personal property.

Mr Pandya said: “We have definitely seen an upturn in racial incidents in the past year, and I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg.

“When everything is nice the number of incidents are down, but when things turn bad like when there is a loss of jobs and cuts to services in an area, people look for someone to blame.

“Then, as the recession woes increase we see resentment as poor Birtons lose out to better qualified immigrants in the battle for scarce jobs.

“It is frustrating because despite all the hard work to combat racism over the past decade, the problem has seemed to slip back into place again.”

Last year the problem came under the spotlight when North Somerset Council received more than 150 racist letters objecting to a Muslim Centre in Orchard Street.

At the time Sari, a Bristol-based charity, described the comments as ‘frightening’ and has since stepped up efforts to support victims in the town.

Thanks to funding from North Somerset Council, the group has one worker in the district dealing with referrals made by the police, family members or the victims themselves.

But Mr Pandya believes more needs to be done and has appealed for people to come forward when a victim of racial abuse at the first instance.

He said: “People will suffer five to seven incidents without reporting it because they are hoping it will just go away and they fear reprisals.

“But without reports we can’t get a clear picture of the problem in the area and the needed support to tackle it.”

Sari can be contacted on 01179 420060.

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