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Community leaders in Thetford planning event to celebrate contribution of migrant community

PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 July 2016 | UPDATED: 17:48 26 July 2016

GV's of King's House home to Thetford Town Council.
Photo: Angela Sharpe
Copy: 
For: EDP
Archant pics © 2008
(01603) 772434

GV's of King's House home to Thetford Town Council. Photo: Angela Sharpe Copy: For: EDP Archant pics © 2008 (01603) 772434

Archant © 2008

Town leaders who are keen to show their solidarity with its migrant community in the wake of the EU referendum are planning an event to celebrate its diverse cultural background.

Richard Howitt, MEP for the East of England, speaking to migrant workers at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford before the EU referendum. Richard Howitt, MEP for the East of England, speaking to migrant workers at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford before the EU referendum.

Thetford town councillors have agreed to organise an event to recognise the contribution of Portuguese, Polish and other migrant communities to the town.

Mayor of Thetford Terry Jermy said many councillors had noticed “an increase in intolerance” since the vote on June 23.

“People are really worried, and the councillors have had people come to them expressing concerns.

“So we said, it would be lovely if we held an event to celebrate their contribution to the town.

“While there are problems with migration, there are certainly a lot of benefits as well. A lot of our business would suffer if it were not for migrant workers, and you’re able to buy things in the town that you couldn’t before,” he said.

At its meeting on July 19 the town council pledged up to £500 towards the event, which is likely to take place in King Street in mid September.

Keystone Development Trust and the Thetford Lions group have expressed interest in helping with its organisation.

Mr Jermy said it could take the form of a street food market, giving each of the town’s European communities the chance to share their food and culture with one another and with other residents.

There may also be advice stalls for migrant workers who have concerns about the impact of Brexit.

He added: “We need to address that anxiety, but also show how these communities have contributed to the town. It will be a celebration of those communities, but it is an event for the whole town.”

The initial event planning coincides with a release of figures from Norfolk Police, which show there has been no discernible increase in hate crimes against migrant communities in Breckland since the referendum.

In the three weeks before the vote, there was 19 diversity-related crimes and incidents reported in the Thetford and Attleborough areas, seven of which were in Thetford itself.

In the three weeks following it, there were only seven such crimes reported in the district, six of which were in Thetford.

Across Norfolk, there were 87 diversity-related crimes or incidents reported in the period before the vote and 88 reported after.

There are beliefs that the fear of Brexit on social media is adding fuel to the fire of racial intolerance.

Chief Insp Paul Wheatley, Policing Commander for Breckland, emphasised that the figures only represented those crimes which had been reported to police.

“On paper we have seen no increase, but there are migrant workers who are concerned so we are monitoring the situation and are organising a county-wide impact survey.

“We support all communities within the constabulary and if there are concerns or people have been a victim of abuse, please don’t hesitate to call the police, because we want to know if incidents like that are happening so we can deal with the problem,” he said.

Mr Jermy said: “There has been in increase in intolerance, and people are much more willing to verbalise their intolerance – the referendum has given a green light to that.

“I’m not to worried about the statistics because there seems to be an increase in anxiety and concern, and the police need to encourage people to report it.”

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