UK holiday company faces legal action for bumper-car hijab ‘discrimination’

Butlins is a large holiday chain with camps across the UK. (WikiCommons)
Updated 14 December 2017
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UK holiday company faces legal action for bumper-car hijab ‘discrimination’

LONDON: The father of a girl barred from riding the dodgems at Butlins while wearing a hijab has launched a discrimination case against the British holiday company.
Moammer Nasser, 41 visited Butlins in Minehead last June with his wife and four children, UK media reported. His 16-year-old daughter was approached by an attendant while the family was queuing for a bumper-car ride, he said, and was allegedly denied access due to her hijab.
Nasser asked to see evidence of a policy banning hijabs at Butlins after the attendant cited health and safety concerns.
“I was shown a safety code which stated that some disabled guests or those with physical injuries may not be able to use rides safely,” Nasser told The Guardian. “But wearing a hijab is not a disability or a physical injury.”
“During our stay at the resort there was another lady who was wearing a scarf around her neck and was allowed on the rides; many people were wearing hoods and the tie strings were hanging … yet they were still allowed on the rides,” Nasser said.
“We were humiliated in front of other fairground users … People were looking at us as if we were criminals, being stopped and questioned by the ride attendant, followed by a supervisor and the fairground manager coming out to speak to us whilst people stared and looked at my family, probably assuming that we had done something wrong.”
Nasser is now bringing a claim for race and religious discrimination against Butlins, a large holiday chain with camps across the UK.
He has launched a crowd justice campaign to fund the legal action, claiming that his daughter’s hijab in no way presented a health and safety concern.
“The hijab covered her face and neck. It was raining so she was wearing a jacket and so the part of the hijab covering her neck was tucked into her jacket,” he said.
A spokesperson from Butlins denied discrimination was involved and said staff are trained not to compromise when it comes to the health and safety of guests.


Firefighters battle wildfire in Portugal, 32 people hurt

Updated 22 July 2019
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Firefighters battle wildfire in Portugal, 32 people hurt

COLOS, Portugal: More than 1,000 firefighters battled a major wildfire Monday amid scorching temperatures in Portugal, where forest blazes wreak destruction every summer.
About 90% of the fire area in the Castelo Branco district, 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) northeast of the capital Lisbon, was brought under control during cooler overnight temperatures, according to local Civil Protection Agency commander Pedro Nunes.
But authorities said they expected heat in and winds to increase again in the afternoon, so all firefighting assets remained in place. Forests in the region are tinder-dry after weeks with little rain.
The Portuguese Civil Protection Agency said 321 vehicles and eight water-dumping aircraft were deployed to tackle the blaze, which has raced through thick woodlands.
Nunes told reporters that the fire, in its third day, has injured 32 people, one seriously.
Police said they were investigating what caused the fire amid suspicions it may have been started deliberately.
Temperatures were forecast to reach almost 40 C (104 F) Monday — prolonging a spell of blistering weather that is due to hit northern Europe late this week.
Recent weeks have also seen major wildfires in Spain, Greece and Germany. European Union authorities have warned that wildfires are “a growing menace” across the continent.
In May, forest fires also plagued Mexico and Russia.
Huge wildfires have long been a summer fixture in Portugal.
Residents of villages and hamlets in central Portugal have grown accustomed to the summer blazes, which destroy fruit trees, olive trees and crops in the fields.
In the hamlet of Colos, 50-year-old beekeeper Antonio Pires said he had lost half of his beehives in the current wildfire. Pires sells to mainly Portuguese and German clients, but also to Brazil and China.
“(I lost) 100 out of 230 (hives), so almost half,” Pires said. “A lot of damage.”
The country’s deadliest fire season came in 2017, when at least 106 people were killed.
The average annual area charred by wildfires in Portugal between 2010 and 2016 was just over 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres). That was more than in Spain, France, Italy or Greece — countries which are significantly bigger than Portugal.
Almost 11,500 firefighters are on standby this year, most of them volunteers. Volunteers are not uncommon in fire brigades in Europe, especially in Germany where more than 90% are volunteers.
Experts and authorities have identified several factors that make Portugal so particularly vulnerable to forest blazes. Addressing some of them is a long-term challenge.
The population of the Portuguese countryside has thinned as people have moved to cities in search of a better life. That means woodland has become neglected, especially as many of those left behind are elderly, and the forest debris is fuel for wildfires.
Large areas of central and northern Portugal are covered in dense, unbroken stretches of forest on hilly terrain. A lot of forest is pine and eucalyptus trees, both of which burn fiercely.
Environmentalists have urged the government to limit the area of eucalyptus, which burns like a torch. But it is a very valuable crop for Portugal’s important paper pulp industry, which last year posted sales worth 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion). The government says it is introducing restrictions gradually.
Experts say Portugal needs to develop a diversified patchwork of different tree species, some of them more fire-resistant and offering damper, shaded.
Climate change has become another challenge, bringing hotter, drier and longer summers. The peak fire season used to run from July 1 to Sept. 30. Now, it starts in June and ends in October.
After the 2017 deaths, the government introduced a raft of measures. They included using goats and bulldozers to clear woodland 10 meters (33 feet) either side of country roads. Property owners also have to clear a 50-meter (164-feet) radius around an isolated house, and 100 meters (328 feet) around a hamlet.
Emergency shelters and evacuation routes have been established at villages and hamlets. Their church bells aim to toll when a wildfire is approaching.
With 98% of blazes caused by human hand, either by accident or on purpose, officials have also been teaching people how to safely burn stubble and forest waste. Police, army and forest service patrols are also increased during the summer.