‘Please be respectful’: Norwich taxi drivers tell of big rise in racist abuse
- Credit: Archant
Drivers at one of Norwich's largest taxi firms have spoken out about racist abuse, as the company revealed every one of its foreign drivers has been a victim of the crime.
Co-owner of ABC Taxis, Paul Walker, said 42 of ABC's 180 drivers were of a non-British background, and all had reported racist abuse from customers.
Mr Walker said the problem was worse than he had ever known it in his 34 years in the business. He said: 'Racism is more apparent today than it ever was.'
Saud Qasim has been driving for ABC for more than a year, after moving to the UK from Pakistan nine years ago. The 30-year-old, of Hellesdon, said he first faced racism from a customer just three days into the job, after he gave a ride a woman in her 40s, and then returned her home afterwards.
He said: 'When I took her back to her house she started abusing me. She started saying stuff like 'you shouldn't be here. You Pakis are taking our jobs.' I didn't react at the time but I asked her to leave the car. She was also threatening to kill me and saying her partner would kill me. It came out of nowhere.'
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But in that case, the culprit did not get away with it. Mr Qasim called the police, and the women was charged for racial abuse and threatening behaviour, and given a 15-month prison sentence.
He said he had faced other racist incidents, but had not reported them. Another driver, Russel Ahmed, said he had also faced abuse including being told 'you smell like curry' and a bizarre request from one customer to clean his shoes because: 'Indians are good at that.'
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But Mr Ahmed said: '95pc of the people you meet are very nice and they know you are just doing your job.'
Mr Walker said one driver had even quit earlier this month after suffering racist abuse, the first time that had happened at the firm. He said: 'I was quite sad and upset about that. All I would ask is: please be respectful of the service we provide.'
Norfolk Police's Insp Dan Cocks said the force was committed to tackling hate crime in all its forms. He added: 'Whilst Norfolk remains one of the safest counties in the country the Constabulary recognises that a small section of society continues to commit these offences. I would strongly encourage anyone who has suffered or witnessed such behaviour to report the matter to police.'
'You are going to be vulnerable at some point'
Mr Walker said their taxis were equipped with CCTV for insurance purposes, and drivers could press an emergency button if they faced danger.
He said: 'We also don't expect our drivers to let anyone into their car that they have concerns over.
But Chris Harvey, ABC's marketing manager and a taxi driver, said there was only so much that could be done to protect drivers.
He said: 'Imagine being asked to pick up four big lads being and take them to somewhere out in the countryside in the middle of the night.
'Unfortunately it's the nature of taxi driving that you are going to be vulnerable at some point because you are out there on your own.'
Mr Harvey said he thought the Brexit vote had some impact.
He said: 'Some people feel that the country has spoken and this sort of abuse has become acceptable.
'It has certainly stirred up a lot of feelings.'
Are you a taxi driver who has suffered racist abuse? Email firstname.lastname@example.org