Socialist Worker

Portuguese migrants under attack in Norfolk

by Hugh Stanners
Issue No. 1966

The Portuguese community in Watton, Norfolk, suffered a sickening racist attack on Thursday of last week.

A crude bomb full of nails and screws was left on the landing of a block of flats inhabited mainly by Portuguese workers.

Thankfully nobody was hurt in the explosion. But it is part of a nationwide rise in the number racist attacks. There is no doubt that the war in Iraq and the demonisation of Muslims by politicians and the press have given confidence to violent racists.

Racist attacks on Muslims have soared. But the climate of racism has also helped to fuel attacks on other groups.

Isolation

Communities of migrant workers are increasingly being victimised by racists.

During the Euro 2004 football tournament a mob of 200 rampaged through Thetford, Norfolk. They injured six people when they threw bricks at a Portuguese owned pub.

In March this year a Sikh statue, also in Thetford, was daubed with white paint and swastika symbols.

The isolation and poor treatment of groups of migrant workers makes them vulnerable to attacks.

These migrants are often trapped in badly paid, menial jobs—in factories on in agriculture.

A recent report by academics at Anglia Polytechnic University found that 79 percent of migrant workers in the area are in low skill jobs, but that 75 percent of them had medium to high skill jobs before they came to Britain.

At the launch of the report community liaison police officer Lukie Gooda said, “A 23 year old Polish lady came to me and she had a BA in environmental protection.

“She was prepared to be a receptionist, to be a waitress, but not to work in a factory. That is the only work she found. She fell down in tears in front of me.

“She said, ‘I didn’t have a clue about what I was going to experience here’.”

Response

Another report from the East of England Development Agency says, “Research has uncovered some appalling stories about the number of hours many migrants work, the level of pay they receive and the less than equal treatment they experience at work.”

Many people in Norfolk oppose the mistreatment of and attacks on migrants. Activists planned to launch a petition in defence of Portuguese workers this week.

Ira, a member of Unite Against Fascism in the area, talked about a response to the recent attack in Watton.

“We have to break the isolation of different communities by uniting people in a campaign against racist attacks.

“We will work with organisations involved in representing the Portuguese community, trade unions, churches and the Race Equality Council.”


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

News
Sat 3 Sep 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1966
Share this article


Tags



Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.