Avon and Somerset Police is investigating potentialy racially-motivated incidents involving a number of bus drivers refusing to pick up people of colour on a route near Bristol Airport.
The incidents are alleged to have taken place on a Stagecoach Falcon service near a Holiday Inn on Bridgwater Road which is currently being used to house asylum seekers.
Nearby resident, Angie Bual outlined the situation on Twitter after helping the men based at the hotel for the past five months.
She tweeted: “Can you help? Avon and Somerset Police has told me that ‘racism is not a crime.’ @StagecoachSW falcon service has stopped picking up black and brown men at a certain bus stop near me.
“The drivers accept white passengers. This is apartheid in action. Apparently this is because the drivers haven’t said anything overtly offensive or been violent. They have said ‘I don’t take refugees’.”
Ms Bual adds that there have been three similar incidents reported across a two-month period during which drivers had accepted white passengers but refused to allow people of colour to board the bus.
She told Bristol World: “The Stagecoach Falcon bus is their only transport in and out of Bristol.
“For some, they use it to go to college, health appointments, to receive legal aid - or to simply leave the hotel which is far away from any amenities. The bus stop is Cowslip Green on the A38.
“I’ve set up a WhatsApp group of resident commuters to offer them lifts in and out of town. These are eagerly taken up by the refugee men as transport is such an issue - and they rely on a bus that comes once an hour, and often doesn’t stop at all.
“Over the time I’ve known the guys the issues of the bus have got worse and worse. I’ve had numerous reports from the men and from residents about the behaviour of the drivers.”
Stagecoach stated, on Twitter, that it was taking the allegations seriously.
Police superintendent, Dickon Turner confirmed officers were called by a bus driver on September 10 for what is believed to be a related incident and that the matter was being taken seriously.
He said: “There can be no excuse for any form of hate or prejudice in Avon and Somerset and we will always take any such offences extremely seriously.
“We were called by a bus driver on 10 September to a payment dispute between them and a number of people trying to board the bus in North Somerset.
“We were told the individuals were trying to pay in cash and the driver said he was unable to accept the payment.
“Officers attended to prevent a breach of the peace and no offences were reported or identified.”
Supt Turner added that the incident was later reported to be racially-motivated though was not logged as having a hate-related motive - something which has been amended today (October 3).
“A third-party report about the incident was received later that day from a member of the public who raised concerns the incident was racially-motivated, stating the people involved were asylum seekers staying at a nearby hotel.
“A PC and Temporary Chief Inspector called her and explained we had attended, no offences had been identified or reported and permitted entry onto a bus was a civil matter rather than a criminal one.
“The Temp Ch Insp raised the matter with partner agencies in a working group, including the local authority, to establish if there were any complaints we were unaware of from those passengers and so partners could take steps to ensure they could access public transport in future.
“In accordance with recording protocols, this has been logged as a hate incident. Unlike a hate crime, a hate incident is one where at least one person believes there was a hate element, but where no criminal offences have been found to have occurred.
“We recognise this was not done at the time as it should have been but has today been completed. This will mean any officer called to a similar situation in future will be able to access a record of the concerns raised with respect of this matter.”
To report a hate crime, visit www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/report/hate-crime or call 101.
A fundraiser supporting asylum seekers in the area can be found here: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/support-asylum-seekers-in-north-somerset-1