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The Great Big Taxi Debate

Taxi drivers face many problems day to day. Whether it being language barriers, dress codes or simply fearing for their lives, it seems it is becoming harder and harder to make an honest living. Many representing, some would say, the front line for the rest of the Asian community.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Asian Express looks deep into the plight of Yorkshire’s taxi community starting with their fight against abuse and fear for their lives.

In recent weeks Police have started extra patrols around Bradford and Leeds to stop taxi drivers being targeted by youths. West Yorkshire Police have stepped up both visible and undercover patrols to deter antisocial behaviour. Countless drivers have said they were becoming increasingly worried about being targeted by youths.

Perils

Last year, one driver Rizwan Khan, was struck in the face with a glass bottle in what he believed was a racially aggravated attack. He briefly left his taxi to collect a customer from the Wykebeck Arms, Halton, where he was verbally abused by a crowd of people. He then became involved in a scuffle after being hit in the face by a bottle and punched in the side of the head.

Rizwan Khan, was struck in the face with a glass bottle in what he believed was a racially aggravated attack

Rizwan Khan, was struck in the face with a glass bottle in what he believed was a racially aggravated attack

The 30-year-old has been deeply affected by the assault, which left him with a broken cheek bone and black eye, but the injuries are more than physical. Now he feels reluctant to go back to work and fears that he may be the victim of another attack.

Mr Khan said: “I got out the car to get my customer when someone shouted: ‘Get back in your car, you Paki b*****d!’ “Then the bottle hit my face and I was punched in the head – I feared for my life at the time.

“I had a broken cheek bone and a swollen temple. I was spitting blood and I couldn’t chew or sleep properly. “I believe it was racially aggravated because you can’t say racist remarks like that.”

“I’ve worked all my life but I don’t want to work nights anymore – I’m scared to.” Clampdown Inspector Pete Tuff of a Neighbourhood Policing Team said: "We are stepping up patrols at sensitive times and carrying out other work to try and identify the culprits.

"Those who risk causing serious damage to cars and potentially serious injuries to drivers and this behaviour will not be tolerated."

A spokesperson for the private hire drivers in Eccleshill, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "We provide a service to residents in Ravenscliffe and it is unacceptable that our drivers should be treated in this way and risk injury to themselves and damage to their vehicles."

Widespread Experience

Akooji Badat 51, has been a taxi driver for over 20-years. He said he has seen it all: “Especially at night we get it the most. “It’s generally all fuelled by alcohol and it can get scary sometimes, it only takes one bad passenger to end your career or even your life.

“I have seen many of my colleagues racially abused and even violently assaulted. “One man had his finger cut as someone put a knife to his neck and other drivers have reported being strangled by their own seatbelts.

“About 20-years-ago it was the same situation but it has really been aggravated in the last few years. “It’s a dangerous job, but someone’s got to do it.”

Are you a cabbie who's faced abuse or violent behaviour? If you have a view on this please get in touch at comments@asian express.co.uk

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