Minorities are a `curiousity' in south-west

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The Independent Online
ATTITUDES TOWARDS black and Asian people in south-west England are 20 years behind those in the rest of the country, according to a report published today.

Black people are accustomed to having their hair stroked out of curiosity and being followed round the aisles of shops by sales assistants, it says. And tourists with Asian-sounding names are being refused places in holiday hotels and camp sites because the owners feel they will not "mix in" with other guests.

The report, Challenging Racism in the Rural Idyll, is published today by the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux (Nacab) and looks at the experiences of people from minority ethnic groups living in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. The author, Mohammed Dha-lech, said: "This area is how London was 15 or 20 years ago in terms of language, thinking and attitudes ... some parts of the region are still in a bygone era."

The report includes some shocking examples of discrimination against people who, unlike those in large cities, have no access to community support groups. One black woman who moved from Leicester to the South- west for work had a brick thrown through her window, excrement left on her doorstep and lit cigarettes pushed through her letter-box. Another, who fled domestic violence in London, has been taunted by neighbours for her mixed-race children, who often return from school covered in bruises.

Mr Dhalech is head of the Rural Race Equality Project, which Nacab set up in Exeter three years ago. He said there was widespread reluctance to acknowledge racism in the region. The report described "evidence of apathy and lack of interest" in race equality in many statutory and voluntary organisations, concluding that this held back race-equality initiatives and supported discriminatory behaviour.

The study was published as the Commission for Racial Equality reported on its two-year-old initiative to enlist captains of industry in tackling race discrimination at work. It showed the number of complaints about workplace race discrimination is increasing.