Pontins racially discriminated against Irish Travellers by drawing up list of ‘undesirable’ guest names

Pontins’ staff forced to refuse or cancel bookings from Irish Traveller community, reveals new report

Tara Cobham
Thursday 15 February 2024 15:51 GMT
Pontins used ‘blacklist’ of Irish surnames to keep Travellers out, investigation finds

A holiday camp operator routinely racially discriminated against Irish Travellers by drawing up a list of “undesirable” names, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found.

Pontins’ staff were forced to refuse or cancel bookings from holidaymakers whose name, accent or address indicated they were part of the Irish Traveller community, according to a new EHRC report.

The company “deliberately, openly and repeatedly broke the law” by breaching the Equality Act 2010 in its discrimination against this ethnic group, said EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner.

Pontins’ operator has apologised for its ‘shocking overt race discrimination’ (Alamy)

The holiday park operator has now apologised after it was served a legal notice for engaging in what the human rights watchdog described as “shocking overt race discrimination” towards Irish Travellers.

Have you been affected by this? Email tara.cobham@independent.co.uk

The investigation came after a whistleblower in March 2020 disclosed that Pontins had an “Undesirable Guest List” with 40 names of Irish origin that staff had to follow, with some of this discrimination specifically targeting Irish Travellers, while other discriminatory policies were aimed at Gypsies and Travellers more broadly.

Pontins, owned by Britannia Jinky Jersey Ltd, also introduced a policy in 2018, which required guests to be on the electoral roll, a practice that was found to be discriminatory against Gypsies and Travellers, as people from these communities are far less likely to be registered to vote.

The EHRC has now ordered the firm to issue a public apology to the Gypsy and Traveller communities and introduce equality training, with a deadline for an action plan given as 9 April – otherwise Pontins could face criminal charges.

Commenting on the investigation, Baroness Falkner said: “The discrimination faced by Irish Travellers, and other members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, has no place in 21st-century Britain. The impact of the discrimination faced by those who were refused bookings at Pontins cannot be overstated. People told us that the experience was ‘painful’ and made them feel ‘dehumanised’.

“As the equality regulator for Great Britain, it is our mission to ensure people are treated equally and fairly. Our investigation, with the help of a brave whistleblower, has shown that Pontins comprehensively failed to treat its customers equally and fairly. At the Equality and Human Rights Commission, we will always challenge such discrimination.

“Pontins broke the law. Pontins must now put right their wrongs. We will continue to hold them, and others who think they are above the law, to account.”

The commission said it was “deeply concerned” about the practices uncovered, but the charity Friends, Families and Travellers said while the findings were “deeply saddening”, they did not come as a surprise.

Chris McDonagh, campaigns officer at the charity, said they are “certain” Pontins are not the only providers operating such discriminatory policies.

A spokesperson for Pontins said: “We are in the process of reviewing the unlawful act notice and investigation report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The specific incidents reported by the EHRC are historic issues, pre-dating 2018.

“The call centre where the incidents took place has now closed and the majority of the staff involved have now left Pontins. We apologise to all who may have been affected. Pontins is committed to ensuring ongoing compliance with the Equality Act 2010.”

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