A woman who moved to Ipswich from Zimbabwe more than 15 years ago says racism remains a problem in Suffolk – and even fears some people feel more emboldened to be prejudiced.
Enala Maturure moved to the UK in 2000, aged 17 years old, to work as a carer.
She has been living in Ipswich since 2006 with her four children.
Now 38, she says she and her family still face everyday incidents of racism living and working in the town, despite diversification over recent years.
“The moment I stepped off the plane into Heathrow Airport, I was more aware of my blackness,” she said.
“In Zimbabwe, I was just a girl but here I am a black girl – it is the first thing people see.
“I always knew that, but it didn’t ever set the precedent of who I am.”
When beginning her career, she was forced to call herself Anne because no-one wanted to learn how to say her name.
Often, employers would be surprised to find ‘Anne’ was actually a black woman.
The mum-of-four moved to Ipswich after giving birth to her son in Hackney, as she wanted a safe and quiet place to raise a family away from the risks of crime and gangs in London.
She worked in care homes and said she has experienced racial abuse during her time in Suffolk, from verbal insults to people not wanting her to touch them.
“I know for many of them it was a generational thing they had been raised to think of black people in a certain way,” she said.
“Bus drivers have driven off past me, I reported them and they said they never saw me – even though I was standing right there.
“There are a lot of little things to contend with every day – people often think you are a drug dealer or something shady.”
Educated at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth school in Zimbabwe, Enala had been taught traditional etiquette and raised on English dinners such as toad in the hole and Sunday roasts – so was accustomed to ‘British culture’.
Her experiences of discrimination were not what she expected when moving to the UK, but she put up with it to ensure she could send money back home to her family in Africa.
Then, in 2009, her world was turned upside down when her visa application was delayed and she was detained by Border Force after becoming an illegal immigrant.
“I left the house that night with my son in tears and me in handcuffs,” she said.
“At age 25, I had no idea what I had done wrong and was so scared they were going to deport me without my family.
“It was a really difficult ordeal for me.”
Spending weeks in custody waiting for news, she was advised to seek asylum by her lawyer and was eventually moved out of a detention facility to Birmingham, where she initially lived in accommodation shared with up to 60 other people.
She then spent four years housed in the Midlands while they waited for her visa to be granted – unable to work and relying on government aid.
Upon her return to Ipswich, Enala was surprised at how diverse the town had become, saying: “When I first came here and saw other black people I would wave at them and them at me because we felt a connection in being the only black people there – I would go home so excited.
“I had got used to being the only black person in the room wherever I went. But also, after returning I felt a lot of resentment from people aimed at immigrants.
“They have such strong views that immigrants are stealing their jobs, but who else will work in a field for 12 hours, who else will do it that cheap?
“I became a person who needed to justify why they were here every day – ‘why don’t you go back to your own country’.
“Every day is a challenge still and it got worse after Brexit. The vote has empowered some people to feel they can be openly racist.”
Though Enala’s children were all born in England, they have not been granted British citizenship.
Her eldest son Takondwa is 14 and says he feels more African than British, even though he only visited Zimbabwe once as a young child.
He said: “This country does not see me that way, I can’t say I’m British even though I was born here.”
Though Enala says her time in Ipswich means she has met lovely people who have become part of her family and that she chooses to stay here for her children, she still struggles with the preconceptions others have.-Ipswich Star