Kebab shop staff face daily racism from people 'not educated enough'
- Credit: Archant
Employees at a Lowestoft kebab shop with a predominantly Turkish workforce have said they face racism "almost daily" as their most prolific abuser was convicted for hate crime.
Robert Burlingham, 54, was given a suspended prison sentence and fine at Great Yarmouth Magistrates Court on Wednesday after he admitted subjecting staff at Kings Kebab & Pizza on London Road South to racially aggravated harassment in June last year.
The court heard that Burlingham made staff uncomfortable with insults such as "go back to your own country", and "show me your passport", with one employee's victim impact statement revealing they "no longer wanted to come into work" because of him.
Speaking after the hearing, one staff member who asked to remain anonymous said the kind of abuse they received from Burlingham was "nothing new".
He said: "Bob's been doing this for years. He did it to the old fellas who used to work here. His issue is that he thinks we all look the same.
"You just have to ignore it, because we know Bob is all talk and there's nothing we can really do to stop him.
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"He lives opposite the shop, and is constantly drunk and abusive. He shouts and intimidates all members of staff. He even called our delivery drivers white trash.
"Every shop like ours has to put up with racism. People resort to it when we get an order wrong or they're unhappy with us for some reason.
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"The problem is that people aren't educated enough, and it's not just here in the UK. I'm originally from Turkey but I'm Kurdish, and in Turkey Kurdish people also face a lot of racism and harassment."
Kevin Wingfield, who leads the local Stand up to Racism branch, said the most important thing to take from Burlingham's conviction was that even if someone was a "crackpot", we shouldn't "normalise their racism".
"We haven't been able to organise demonstrations lately because of the restrictions", he said, "but I'm glad people are calling the police and making a fuss about racism if they hear it.
"Of course, I don't think we are at risk of becoming the Third Reich any time soon, and most people are not interested in making the lives of minority groups difficult, but there are definitely people who push their luck and that needs to be challenged.
"Racism is hurtful and there's no excuse for it."