Racism victims offered helpline

By Mark HeathA 24-hour helpline is to be launched for victims of racism - as latest figures revealed a steep rise in the number of racist incidents.The helpline, a joint initiative between Suffolk County Council, Suffolk police and the Refugee Council, will be launched next week.

By Mark Heath

A 24-hour helpline is to be launched for victims of racism - as latest figures revealed a steep rise in the number of racist incidents.

The helpline, a joint initiative between Suffolk County Council, Suffolk police and the Refugee Council, will be launched next week.

It comes as Peter Monk, deputy leader of the council and portfolio holder for public protection, will tell councillors next week there has been a 15% increase in racist incidents in Suffolk over the first four months of 2003.


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Shammi Jalota, racial harassment officer for the county council, said the pre-recorded helpline would be available at all hours of the day.

“The idea is that we offer a service for hard to reach groups in the county, whereby if they suffer racist harassment and they are not confident in reporting it to the police, they can leave messages on this line in their desired language,” he added.

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“The messages will then be translated into English and passed on to the county council with a view to taking action.

“It must be stressed that the line is for anyone, of any race, religion, culture or colour - not just visible minorities - who feels they have been harassed because of their ethnic background.

“The hope is that we increase the trust and confidence of vulnerable groups across the county. People can call from the comfort of their homes rather than going to a police station.”

Mr Jalota continued: “There is no direct correlation between the line being set up and the increase in racist incidents.

“We would like to think the increase is down to more people coming forward because they are more confident and they know a lot more about procedures.”

Mr Monk backed the helpline, which is believed to be one of the first of its kind in the rural areas of the country.

“One of the council's priorities is to stamp out any racism and I think we've been reasonably successful in Suffolk, but it does still exist,” he said.

“We've heard of people who have no-one or nowhere to turn to - this line is going to be for them and it will help.”

The helpline - whose number is on 0800 1381643 - will be launched at the Refugee Council, in Museum Street, Ipswich, on Wednesday.

mark.heath@eadt.co.uk

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