'Driven out of business by racist abuse'

PUBLISHED: 16:49 07 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:15 10 June 2010

RACIST abuse has chased a town centre family-run business out of town. The Sudanese-born owners of Wessex Dry Cleaners in Rolle Street chosen to clean the mayor's ceremonial robes have had enough and are moving back to Exeter. Manager Omar Saeid said

RACIST abuse has chased a town centre family-run business out of town.The Sudanese-born owners of Wessex Dry Cleaners in Rolle Street - chosen to clean the mayor's ceremonial robes - have had enough and are moving back to Exeter.Manager Omar Saeid said since they opened their doors 20 months ago they had been made to feel "unwelcome".But police have been unable to prosecute the offenders because the abuse was "subtle".Mr Saeid, 21, said his mother and father, a former imam at Exeter's Islamic Centre, moved to England 25 years ago.He said: "We have tried to make it work, but it's just become impossible."We have had people drive past and shout abuse. People have come into the shop, seen us and just walked out. "We have loyal customers, but it isn't enough to keep us going. "It's a small town, and everybody knows each other - and we just don't feel accepted."He said his mother - who wears an Islamic head scarf - was "having nightmares" and "always looking over her shoulder".Once, when she was walking near Rolle Villas, a car accelerated towards her - and she feared she was going to be hit.Said Mr Saeid: "You notice little things - you ask for quotes from builders and they never call you back."Contracts with some High Street stores have been cancelled without explanation."I am shocked and surprised. I know you get a small town mentality in lots of places, but I didn't expect it here."Exmouth Mayor Joy Whipps - a customer at the dry cleaners - said: "I am appalled. They are such lovely people. I am very saddened they don't feel welcome and feel they have no option but to leave."A police spokesman said their racial diversity officer for East Devon had been working with the Saeids - but the nature of the abuse made it difficult to use anti-racism laws.PC Vanessa Thompson, diversity officer, said: "Devon and Cornwall Constabulary take any racist incident reported to us very seriously, and deal with it positively. We were contacted by the family and we have worked with Exmouth Town Management and the Devon Racial Equality Council to support them."We have been unable to identify any offenders from the incidents reported and no criminal offences. We would welcome contact from any member of the community who can assist us."Richard Anderson, of the Devon Racial Equality Council, said: "There are certain problems in rural Devon. We definitely need to work in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies to identify racial discrimination and to take necessary action.

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