What support do Black British citizens, receive from the British government, when travelling or working abroad and who are victims of crime,?
Given the Windrush scandal, where black British citizens were forcibly deported, illegally, despite having all the objective evidence, proving their British citizenship, it is perfectly reasonable, to ask what support do black British citizens get, from our British embassies, when they find themselves in trouble, and facing racism whilst abroad?
There are many examples in the recent past, where Black citizens have complained bitterly, about the failure and deep reluctance of British embassies to provide support for black British citizens who complain of racism and profound injustice, whilst visiting many countries around the world.
One such case is that of Mr Leon Koffi. Leon is a British citizen who migrated to the United Kingdom from the Ivory Coast in 1994 and looking to expand his career and economic horizons, sought to apply for a variety of new positions, throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.
Before we start the story, Leon reports they tried desperately to get British media to cover this story, and none of them were prepared to do so. In coming to me and publishing this story, I hope to shine a bright light on this particular injustice but we can only do so with your support, in ensuring this article receives the widest possible publication.
What happened to Leon Koffi, should serve as a profound warning, to all people of color seeking to live or work in the former Eastern Bloc nations, now European countries. British Embassy will not help you and just as you enjoy third class citizenship here in Britain, you will find your British citizenship counts for nothing when encountering vicious and violent racism abroad.
After making a number of job applications from his home in Britain, Leon managed to secure an interview with a company called Concentrix, with an office in Sofia Bulgaria and as a result of his ability to speak French was offered a job as e-com customer service. On May 19th he flew out to Bulgaria.
Once he arrived in Sofia couldn’t help but notice the singular looks of shock and disgust on the faces of some Bulgarian people. When his luggage went missing, he soon found out that Bulgarian Airways staff seemed to have a problem with Africans in their country. Their communication with him was abrupt, rude and utterly ineffective and Leon was forced to leave the airport without his luggage and with no explanation as to when and where is luggage might be.
Although Leon initially received a warm welcome from his colleagues at his new place of work Concentrix, he soon became aware that his face didn’t fit in the pristine white, cultural environment of this company. He speaks movingly of being marginalized, denied customer-facing roles, and suffering the assumption that Bulgarian staff could speak better English and French than he could.
After six months of marginalization and surviving on a low salary, without any professional respect or regard for equality and diversity at his place of work, Leon decided to look for another job.
He subsequently found a job available in the same building, as his old firm with a company called Service Source, and decided to take it. Now he was earning more money and his work colleagues seemed which more friendly and he was desperately eager to make new friends. He made good friends with a young Tunisian guy named Aziz.
On Saturday the 29th September 2018 Leon set out to meet a friend who was visiting him from the Ivory Coast. His friend arrived late that day, so he decided to visit his friend Aziz who lived nearby. After a brief phone call, they then decided to meet at the local McDonald’s in downtown Sofia.
Once arriving there, Aziz introduced him to another friend and all
Unbeknown to Leon, there was a local football match taking place that day, a fierce derby, between local, Bulgarian teams, Levsky Football Club and CSK.
What he didn’t know was that there was an ” informal curfew” and that most non-white foreigners knew not to be around the town
In the past, there have been many occasions, where other minorities were openly attacked in front of the Bulgarian police officers, without any interventions or arrests on their part. The day about to get much worse, as on that particular day a march was taking place by Bulgarian neo-Nazis. Everybody in town knew to stay away.
As they were making their way to their friends local home, they came across, what he thought, were police officers, information doing drills, Whilst he was asking his friend exactly who these people were, he immediately saw a group of about 50 of these uniformed thugs, running towards him.
As he tried to get away he was set upon and viciously kicked in the face. The force of the blow literally threw him across the road, into an advertising billboard. Leon then began to lose consciousness was losing consciousness but he could still hear them making monkey noises, whilst reigning down blows upon him to be blacked out.
Leon suffered a savage beating at the hands of neo-fascists, a beating that took place in full public view, and for other reason than being
When he woke up, he was surrounded by Bulgarian police officers and had no idea where he was and had no recollection of what had happened. His, face mouth lips and ears were bleeding profusely, he had sustained a vicious beating and when Leon regained his thoughts, it was then that he noticed they he had been beaten so badly, they had knocked out his front teeth. Luckily his friend Aziz had picked them up and save them and then took Leon to the hospital, who by this time, was drifting in and out of consciousness throughout the journey.
As they reached the Accident and Emergency department, the doctor on duty initially refused Leon care, he was told that the hospital didn’t have the required equipment to provide with the necessary emergency care he needed. They told him there was nothing else they could do for him and refused to even dispense rudimentary treatment or painkillers. His friends then gathered him up in a taxi and headed for another hospital.
Leon reported that when he got hit in the face, he saw a bright white light and felt he was outside of his physical body and although we could see you and hear his body being physically assaulted, he reported that it felt like it was happening to somebody else, and he was observing, hovering above his own body.
Bulgarian police officers visited him at the hospital, where he gave his first interview. Despite being busted up, the officers insisted that Leon was a witness to an attack, as opposed to the victim of a brutal, racist beating that took place in full public view.
He was also visited by a woman representing the British Embassy, who told him after leaving some information leaflets ” there is nothing we can do for you.”
They did assist him to find an English-speaking lawyer to represent him, although it became immediately obvious, that he could not afford the cost of such representation. Luckily the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee an organization dedicated to combating hate crimes in Bulgaria offered to represent him.
Leon stayed in the hospital for two weeks and was treated for broken jawbone, massive facial bruising and deep and severe concussion. He had to have his teeth replaced as well as several painful operations to fix his broken jaw.
He took a hell of a beating and as the pictures demonstrate, he was lucky to escape with his life. This could so easily, could have been another tragic, racist murder.
The necessary hospital operations proved to be excruciatingly painful, with screws being placed into his jaw and removed without any local anesthetic. Leon was in deep pain and unable to eat for many months.
The case was featured on national Bulgarian television news and on Nova TV, and as a result, the case gained national traction on social media. Leon became the target of vicious Bulgarian neo-Nazis who targeted him online, and it appeared to him, that the country was split, between those who supported him and those that he had thought he had lied and was seeking to bring the country into disrepute, or falsely extract cash from the authorities.
As a result, he felt real danger, as he had been identified in the local media as “the first black man, brave enough to speak openly about Bulgarian neo-Nazi racism.”
He reported that the British Embassy showed very little to no interest at all in providing him with support. He reports that either
Since leaving the hospital, Leon was being followed, harassed in public, and threatened both to his face and in private. As a result, he was psychologically traumatized, deeply fearful and living in constant dread of another attack.
Being one of the few Africans in Sofia is easily identifiable. His
On returning to work after a slow period of recovery, Leon was shocked to discover he was now sacked from his place of work, as a consequence of “opening your big mouth on television”
On returning to the United Kingdom he was forced to claim Universal Credit and suffered enormous hardship and abject poverty as a consequence of being sacked from his previous job. He was forced to survive on vouchers and food banks, while he appealed the decision to deny benefits. The local Ivorian community stepped in and insured provided support for his basic living needs.
Leon reached out to his local Labour MP Gill Furness after being refused Universal Credit and although she fully informed asset everything that happened to him and was initially helpful, of late he’s heard nothing for else from her.
Leon should receive a full apology from the Bulgarian government
British embassies must be given immediate guidance and black people need to be made aware of what to
It is incumbent on the British government to ensure that British embassies I trained and can
The services offered by the British Embassies must reflect the needs of our multicultural population.
When black people travel in the world I would strongly advise that they seek additional insurance for expert legal, in a country you are visiting, working or residing.
I would also ensure you do some research in looking at the history of racism and fascist activity, particularly in these Eastern Bloc countries where popular fascism has become deeply embedded in the national culture and the institutional organs of state.
Take non-chances and ensure you do your homework because as Leon’s story tells us, it can be a nightmare to be caught out cold and alone in a quasi neo-fascist state,
I think its time to publish our own “Rough Guide to Racism In Europe.”