Belfast Telegraph

Man ordered to leave hostel 'because of his race' awarded £2,000

By Claire Williamson

A French national of Algerian descent has been awarded £2,000 after being asked to leave a youth hostel in Belfast.

Samir Chefai took the case alleging racial and religious discrimination against the Youth Hostel Association of Northern Ireland Ltd (YHANI). The case was settled without admission of liability.

Mr Chefai, who has lived in Belfast for 16 years, was supported in taking his case by the Equality Commission.

In March 2016 he visited his family in Paris and left the keys to his Belfast home at his mother's house by mistake.

On his return to Northern Ireland, and while waiting for the keys to be sent, he checked into the Belfast Youth Hostel for two nights and paid in advance.

On the second day he was in the lobby of the hostel, speaking on his mobile phone in French. A staff member approached him and asked him who he was.

Mr Chefai replied that he was a guest, but when the staff member looked up his details, and saw that he had an address in Belfast, he said that he did not need to stay in the hostel.

The staff member told him he should leave and contacted the police. Mr Chefai felt he had no option but to leave.

He said: "I was asked to leave the hostel, even though I had paid for a second night's stay. It felt to me as though assumptions were being made about my race and religion - that I was a Muslim of middle-eastern origin - and I was being asked to leave because of someone's opinion about me.

"Other people in the lobby could hear everything that was said which I found very embarrassing. I did eventually find another place to stay that night but only after some hours walking through Belfast. The whole experience was very unpleasant."

The YHANI has re-affirmed its commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity and has said it will continue to ensure that it conforms to all relevant equality legislation.

It had already arranged for its staff to undertake training with the Equality Commission on a number of issues and has also agreed to liaise with the commission on its policies, practices and procedures to ensure they are effective and conform to the requirements of the Race Relations Order (NI) 1997.

Chief commissioner of the Equality Commission Michael Wardlow, said: "This man, in a city where he had made his home for 16 years, was singled out, had his identity questioned in public, and was asked to leave the hostel.

"It's completely unacceptable that anyone should be treated like this and the experience was made worse for him because he felt that it was because of someone's perceptions about his religion and race."

"To challenge a person in a public place only because of presumptions about their race or religion would be simplistic stereotyping, which is unacceptable," he added.

YHANI said: "We will continue to provide quality, safe and affordable accommodation for people staying with us on their travels and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Equality Commission going forward."

Belfast Telegraph

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