Breaking down the cultural boundaries

PUBLISHED: 07:30 30 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:07 22 October 2010

Pop into the Twin Brothers' Portuguese restaurant in Dereham on Saturday and you will see English and Portuguese diners downing Superbock beer side-by-side.

Pop into the Twin Brothers' Portuguese restaurant in Dereham on Saturday and you will see English and Portuguese diners downing Superbock beer side-by-side.

The easy laughter and ethnic mix reflects a cooling in racial tensions that led to violence between English and Portuguese football fans in Thetford following Euro 2004.

Portuguese community leaders and police are working together to tackle hate crimes and increased provision of English lessons for Portuguese migrants in Breckland is breaking down communication barriers.

Norfolk's Portuguese population has grown steadily over recent years with about 2,000 in Dereham, 7,000 in Thetford and 1,000 in Swaffham and Watton.

Norfolk Police has experienced a sharp rise in hate crimes since 2004, but minority ethnic liaison officer Pat Kavanagh said much of that was due to increased trust and reporting of crimes among ethnic minorities.

Minority ethnic liaison officer Mr Kavanagh said: "We have moved on decades since what happened in 2004.

"Since 2004 we have seen a steady increase in the reporting of hate-related incidents which means there is a channel of communication open that was not there before."

Mr Kavanagh said the force used a range of methods to tackle hate crimes, from mediation for neighbour disputes to covert surveillance for more traumatic crimes like repeated victimisation and vandalism.

"The most important thing is that we can't do it without the help of the community and without getting them on side," he said. Mr Kavanagh said that landlords and members of the Portuguese community would have a direct line to him when England play Portugal on Saturday, allowing officers to quickly clamp down on any trouble.

Antonio Duarte-Choca is chairman of the migrants' rights group the Mid-Norfolk Association. He said: "The difficulty before was migrant workers not speaking English, but this is being tackled by Breckland Council offering set classes to teach English."

Mr Duarte-Choca works in the adult education department at Norfolk County Council helping migrant workers to learn English and through the MNA helps translate vital documents like bank account application forms.

"This is helping integration and you can see the results of that from the mix of English and Portuguese eating in the Twin Brothers café on Saturday," he said.

"People are also gaining the confidence to speak to the police and learning that you can trust the police here."

Tania Lapa, aged 25, has lived in Dereham for six years with her Portuguese family and works in the Twin Brothers restaurant.

"I lived in London for four months and I did notice a difference in attitude when you first come here, that people do look at you differently because you are Portuguese.

"But people are starting to get more used to having Portuguese people around. You do get a lot of friendly people from the town who come in here on Saturdays to talk and laugh together."

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