Is Wales the most racist part of the UK?

A SPATE of high-profile deaths involving black people in Wales has led to some to label the country as ‘the most racist place in the UK’. Wales recently announced it will become the first nation in the United Kingdom to make Black History mandatory in all schools from 2022. But for many black people living there, this will not stop racist abuse.

In January, Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, 24, died when he returned home after being held in police custody at Cardiff Bay Police Station.  His family claim he was beaten by police, and believe because he was a young black man of Somali heritage, he wasn’t treated with any care.  Speaking to The Voice, his aunt Zainab Hassan, said: “I honestly believe Wales is the most racist place in the UK.

“I believe if Mohamud was a white young Welsh man, he wouldn’t have been treated that way.” Mr Hassan was arrested by South Wales Police at his home on the evening of 8 January 2021, for breach of peace and was held in police custody overnight.

Mohamud Mohamed Hassan (left) and Mouayed Bashir

When he returned home the following morning, he told family members he was beaten by officers while in custody.  Ms Hassan said: “Mohamud was covered in bruises when he came back home, these are bruises that weren’t there when he was arrested.

“His body was black and blue and he told us that he had been attacked by the police.” Ms Hassan said the family wanted to take him to the hospital, but Mohamud said he “was too tired” and will go after he gets some sleep, but he never woke up.  In an emotional interview with The Voice, Ms Hassan said: “I kick myself everyday that we never took him to the hospital straightaway. 

“For families like us, the clock just stops.  “My family is still stuck in this nightmare and we want to why our healthy 24-year-old family member died?” “Mohamud was loved by so many people and we need answers,” she added.

She also criticised South Wales Police for their “cold treatment” and said they failed to show any compassion for a grieving family. Ms Hassan has lived in Cardiff since she was 11 and says she has come across racism in the workplace and within the education system with her own children.  The Hassan family are desperate for answers and are urging South Wales Police and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to release the body-cam footage.

“If there is nothing to hide, show us the body-cam footage, how do they expect families to move on with no answers?” Ms Hassan asked.

Is Wales the most racist part of the UK?Black Lives Matter protesters in Newport, south Wales. Pic: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

In a statement released to The Voice, South Wales Police said: “Shortly after 10.30pm on Saturday, January 9 South Wales Police was called by the Welsh Ambulance Service to a multi-occupancy property on Newport Road in Roath, Cardiff. This call was in relation to the death of Mr Hassan.

“Mr Hassan had been in custody at Cardiff Bay Police Station the previous night following a disturbance at the same property. “He had been arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace and later released without charge which is normal procedure for this offence. “Mr Hassan left custody at around 8.30am on Saturday, January 9.

“South Wales Police referred Mr Hassan’s death to the IOPC which is normal procedure for a death after police contact. “On Monday, January 11 the IOPC announced they were undertaking an independent investigation into police contact with Mr Hassan prior to his death.” A South Wales Police spokesperson told The Voice, they had received requests to release CCTV and body-worn footage, but they provided all relevant video to the IOPC.

“I had my windows smashed and been told to ‘go back home’ and I have been called a ‘black b****’ and many other racial slurs.”

Professor Uzo Iwobi

The spokesperson added: “Therefore the footage cannot be released by South Wales Police while the IOPC is investigating.

“We are fully co-operating with the IOPC investigation and are providing them with all of the information and material they have requested.” In a statement, the IOPC Director for Wales Catrin Evans, confirmed that the IOPC are undertaking an independent investigation into police contact with Mr Hassan.  Ms Evans said: “I send my condolences to Mr Hassan’s family and friends, and to everyone affected by his sad death.

“We are aware of concerns being expressed and questions being asked about use of force by police officers. We will look carefully at the level of force used during the interaction and I would urge people show patience while our enquiries, which will take some time, are made. She added: “I would like to reassure people that we will carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the contact police has with Mr Hassan.

“We will be keeping his family, South Wales Police, and the Coroner updated throughout the course of our investigation.  “An interim report from a post mortem examination is awaited. Preliminary indications are that there is no physical trauma injury to explain a cause of death, and toxicology tests are required.”

The police watchdog has served misconduct notices to six police officers in relation to the investigation surrounding the death of Mr Hassan and over 40 officers have been questioned.  The IOPC are also currently carrying out investigations into the death of another young black man after contact with Welsh Police.

Is Wales the most racist part of the UK?A letter sent to Nichola Ferron (see below)

Mouayed Bashir, 29, died in February, after officers from Gwent Police arrived at his home in Maeglas, Newport.  His brother, Mohand Bashir, told The Voice, Mouayed had been suffering with his mental health, as result of being stabbed three weeks before, and was recovering from an injury to his leg. 

He claims his family were expecting paramedics to arrive but officers from Gwent Police arrived and “forced” their way into Mouayed’s bedroom. He said: “My brother saw the police and was scared, so he barricaded himself in his bedroom. “The police forced their way into Mouayed’s bedroom and handcuffed him and restrained his legs.”

Mr Bashir says his parents repeatedly told officers their son was recovering from a serious injury and was suffering from a mental breakdown “but no one listened to them.”  The Bashir family are of Sudanese heritage, and claim race played a part in the lack of support they were given.  He said: “My parents were treated very aggressively and felt like they were treated like criminals and terrorists because no tiny element of empathy shown to them.”

“People come to this country for a better life and opportunity and we escaped what was happening in Sudan to come here for a better life and look what happened to Mouayed, it is much worst here,” Mr Bashir explained.  Like the Hassan family, Mr Bashir said his family have an agonising wait for body-worn camera footage to be released, which he said “is a double punishment.” He says there is a significant lack of trust in the police among Black, Asian and Minority communities in South Wales. 

Mr Bashir revealed to The Voice that he is currently staying in the same bedroom where his brother died, which is negatively affecting him. He said: “I look in the mirror and wonder if he knew that morning would be his last time he looked in the mirror. “It is horrible because there are reminders still all around the room of what happened to Mouayed, the door is damaged from where the police forced their way in and there are still blood stains on the wall.” 

Is Wales the most racist part of the UK?Nichola Ferron: There’s huge institutional racism here.

A Gwent Police spokesperson said: “We’re unable to comment at this time while the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation is ongoing.”

In a statement, IOPC Director for Wales, Catrin Evans said: “I offer my condolences to Mr Bashir’s family and friends and to everyone affected by his tragic death. “We have spoken to family members to explain our role and how the investigation will progress. It is appropriate in the circumstances of a death following police contact that we investigate what happened, and I would like to reassure people that we will do so thoroughly and independently.

“We will be carefully examining the interaction police officers had with Mr Bashir and whether their actions were proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances.”  An inquest into Mouayed’s death is scheduled to take place in July 2022. Around 4% of Wales’ three million population is from an ethnic minority background, and worryingly there’s been many warning signs of race relation problems in the country for a number of years.

Between 20017-18, Welsh police forces recorded 3,932 hate crimes, which is an alarming increase of almost double since 2013. 

“As a Government, we truly believe that tackling racism and inequality isn’t just about words, it’s about our deeds and actions. It is only by listening and acting that we can achieve real change.”

Welsh Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt

In 2016, UKIP emerged as the biggest winner at the Welsh election and during the same year, Show Racism the Red Card Wales, a key anti-racism charity warned of a “worrying increase” in racist attitudes among school children in Wales, according to a BBC report.  Nichola Ferron, 48, moved to Neath, a small Welsh Town, four years ago, and says she was subjected to shocking racist abuse on the very first day in the picturesque town. 

Speaking to The Voice, she said: “I came out of the moving truck to unload our belongings and I was approached by a woman who shouted and swore at me and told me to ‘go back to where you come from’. Ms Ferron told The Voice, she was forced to remove her daughter, who is mixed race, from a Welsh school after she endured endless racism from other children. She said: “Including Black History on the curriculum sounds great but the reality is there is a huge institutional racism issue in the education system which needs to be eradicated first.” 

Ms Ferron was born in Brooklyn and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and at the age of 10 she went to live in New York. In 2002, she moved to London and worked in the banking and finance sector, before relocating to Wales with her Welsh husband in 2017.  Ms Ferron is an award-winning entrepreneur has won the prestigious Cordon Bleu Chef Great Taste Award three times.

She has received despicable racist abuse on social media and at her workplace.    She told The Voice, she doesn’t have much confidence in the police because when she previously reported racist abuse, she was treated like the “perpetrator and not the victim.”  However, the mother-of-one is determined not to be driven out because of “bigots” and vows to stay to be an example for other women from Black and other ethnic minority backgrounds.

“I’ve bought my house here, this is my forever home, and someone has to fight for other people like me and I need to leave my daughter a legacy,” she explained.  Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, there has been a growing anti-racism movement in Wales.  Thousands of people marched throughout Cardiff, Bangor, Wrexham, Abergavanney, Cynon Valley, Caernarfon, Caerphilly and Swansea demanding an end to racial injustice in the US. 

“If our children’s children are still going to be fighting against the same disproportionate stop and search that we have fought against, then it is not going to work and will cause massive civil disturbances and unrest.”

Lee Jasper

But many campaigners believe the protests should have been happening in Wales a long time ago. 

Speaking to The Voice, Professor Uzo Iwobi OBE, said she initiated the Zero Racism Wales campaign to encourage individuals and organisations to take a proactive stance, sign pledge to end racism. She said: “We have been fighting against racism in Wales for a long time.  “All it takes for racism to end in our world is for every individual to take a personal pledge to end it.

“We need people to fully understand what it means to be anti racist, that means to be engaged and pro-active and it is not to be silent in the face of hate that our communities are experiencing.  “Anti-racism is not just saying you have a black friend, it involves advocating for others, integration of marginalised communities.  “You can’t be an ally and stay silent, doing nothing, we need to see evidence of your actions to combat racial hatred and discrimination, because our black communities are suffering.”

Prof Iwobi says the Welsh government is taking visible action and the pandemic highlighted racial disparities, which helped in the creation of the An Antiracist Wales: Race Equality Action Plan -which was devised by 58 Black Asian and minority ethnic individuals and civil servants co-chaired by Prof Emmanuel Ogbonna and Shan Morgan Welsh Government’s Permanent Secretary  Despite her professional success, Prof Iwobi told The Voice, she had to endure a lot of hurdles because she is a black woman of African heritage. 

Words and Deeds She said: “I moved to Wales 30 years ago from Nigeria, and I came as a qualified lawyer because I wanted to practice law in the UK, but I was told at my local job centre I would never get a job as a lawyer because I was black.”

Prof Iwobi and her children have experienced abominable levels of racism whilst living in Wales.  She said: “My son was locked in the toilet at his school when he was seven years old and he was born here in Swansea, he is a Welsh, black boy of Nigerian heritage.  “My daughter who is older also faced horrendous amounts of racism also.

“I have had my windows smashed and been told to ‘go back home’ and I have been called a ‘black b****’ and many other racial slurs. “It has been very difficult, but I continue to fight.”  Prof Iwobi set up the first African community centre in 2002, which started with just four people but now proudly supports over 500 people. She founded Race Council Cymru in 2010, as an umbrella body to support grassroots groups to fight racism.  

She added: “I look forward to the mandatory teaching of Black History in all Welsh schools across Wales. “The fight for racial equality in Wales has been long standing and it still continues.” In July, the Welsh government announced their Race Equality Acton Plan, which aims to make meaningful change to the lives of Black, Asian and minority Ethnic communities by tackling racism. 

The Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt, said: “As a Government, we truly believe that tackling racism and inequality isn’t just about words, it’s about our deeds and actions. It is only by listening and acting that we can achieve real change.” Ms Hutt said the Welsh government is “committed to producing a number of important pieces of work to address long-term structural inequalities and most importantly, deliver a fairer and more equal society.”

The new plans aim to tackle systemic and institutional racism head-on, where previous policies on diversity and equal opportunity have fallen short and will work across all industries.  But leading campaigners have criticised the goal of building an ‘anti-racism Wales’ by 2030, and believe changes are needed urgently now. 

Radical and Robust Speaking to The Voice, Lee Jasper, co-founder Operation Black Vote and vice chair of BAME Lawyers for Justice, said: “We need to see the change happen within our lifetime, we can’t wait anymore.  

“If our children’s children are still going to be fighting against the same disproportionate stop and search that we have fought against, then it is not going to work and will cause massive civil disturbances and unrest.  Mr Jasper said any plans will need to be “radical and robust” or they will not be “fit for purpose.”  “A fundamental error would be just to rehash old policies, especially when there is a global demand for racial justice,” he added.

Mr Jasper is working closely with many families fighting for justice in Wales and believes racism “is making a toxic reappearance in Brexit Britain.” “The environment has become increasingly hostile for Black people in Britain and Brexit and the pandemic has amplified all of that and Wales has emerged as the racist capital of the United Kingdom,” he said frankly.  Just last month, a mural painted to promote diversity was vandalised in Butetown, Cardiff.

The ‘Mona Lisa’ mural, which is of a black woman, was created to help Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities feel part of the city.  But the mural, situated on James Street, had white paint thrown over it and was reported to police on Monday, 4th October, and is being investigated as a hate crime by South Wales Police.  Speaking to The Voice, inspector Kevin Jones, from the Community Safety Department of South Wales Police, said: “It would appear that white paint has been deliberately thrown onto the mural from the pavement area where there are also splashes of paint.

“Understandably, local residents, the artist and Unify Creative, who commissioned the project, are very upset by what has happened to this mural which represents Cardiff as a proud, welcoming and multicultural city.” As enquiries are on-going, the police are urging anyone with information to contact South Wales Police quoting *348427. Despite recent attempts to portray Wales as a progressive and racially-tolerant country, some black people have been forced to leave because of the abhorrent levels of racism. 

Hate Crime

Cammila Mngaza moved out of Caerphilly, South Wales, after he daughter, Siyanda Mngaza, 22, was convicted and sentenced to four and half years at Swansea Crown Court, for causing grievous bodily harm (GBH). “During the incident a woman was cut in the forehead and this is why Siyanda was convicted of GBH with intent.” Ms Mngaza revealed to The Voice, she has moved out of South Wales because what happened to Siyanda and said it was “the final nail in the coffin” 

In March last year, Siyanda who was a human resources officer, was convicted by an all-white jury and is currently serving a four and half year sentence.  Though her lawyers and family, she has always maintained that she was defending her self in a racist attack.  According to official figures, reported hate crimes have risen by 9% across England and Wales since the start of the pandemic. 

The data shows there has been a record number of more than 124,000 reported hate crimes – with racially motivated crimes making up nearly three-quarters of figures and increasing by 12%, in the year ending March 2021.  Mr Jasper said the reporting and police recording of racist incidents are now being classified as just a “hate crime” and feels “racially motivated attacks” are being “hidden” in the blanket term.  The community activist believes Wales and other parts of the UK, need to start creating racial equity strategies, which will transfer of power and resources to the black community to address and rectify the deep systemic racial inequalities that exist in Britain. 

Dyfed-Powys Police issued a statement in relation to Siyanda Mngaza’s case: “The criminal case in respect of this incident has been concluded. The Court of Appeal has since turned down an application for leave to appeal. “A formal complaint against Police in respect of this matter was received and the review of the complaint under the Police Reform Act 2002 by the Professional Standards Department has been concluded and the outcome was formally communicated to the complainant along with their statutory appeal right to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

“The complainant exercised their appeal right to the IOPC who communicated their decision to the force and the complainant.”

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