Furniture giant Ikea has been caught up in a racism row after insisting it was lawful to employ security guards to stop Gypsies entering its car parks.
The issue was first raised by Luke Massey, who was angered after he, his girlfriend and her mother were challenged as they tried to enter the car park of the Ikea store in Croydon, Surrey. The trio arrived in a camper van.
Mr Massey said: “We were flagged down by a car park attendant. When my partner’s mum, who was driving, wound down the window, he just said ‘Are you Gypsies?’ We were pretty stunned. We asked him if that was a serious question and he just repeated it in a louder voice. We told him that we didn’t think that was a reasonable question – and he replied that if we were Gypsies we weren’t allowed in.”
After leaving the store, Mr Massey confronted the security guard again, this time recording their conversation, in which the security guard can be heard saying: “This is Ikea’s property. We have every right to ask them not to come on to the premises.”
The Gypsy Council said Ikea “should be ashamed of itself”. A spokesman said: “God help anyone who they think looks like a Gypsy – lots of Gypsies don’t walk around with big earrings.”
Joseph Jones, chairman of the Council, said: “Gypsies have been part of this country for hundreds of years, it is not right that a Scandinavian firm can come to do business here and discriminate against sections of the indigenous population. It is open season against Gypsies and Travellers, the politicians have signalled that, so they can do what they want.”
Garry Deakin, Ikea Croydon Store Manager, said: "Over recent months the Travelling Community in the Croydon area have been attempting to access the customer car park to set up their mobile homes, which not only has an impact on our customers' shopping experience, but also poses a health and safety risk due to the build up of human and animal waste. After discussions with both the Local Traveller Liaison Officer and Croydon Council, Ikea Croydon implemented preventative procedures to secure the car park, including a Security Officer to... prevent the mobile homes entering the car park."
Listen to the conversation between Mr Massey and an Ikea employee here: