Hostel ‘discrimination’ case settled for £2,000

The Belfast International Youth Hostel in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast. Image: Google
The Belfast International Youth Hostel in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast. Image: Google

A French national who has lived in Northern Ireland for 16 years has settled a discrimination case against a youth hostel after being told to leave.

Samir Chefai had alleged racial and religious discrimination against the Youth Hostel Association of Northern Ireland Limited over the incident in March 2016.

Mr Chefai – whose ethnic roots lie in the Muslim-dominated former French colony of Algeria – has settled his case for £2,000.

There was no admission of liability by the Youth Hostel Association.

The Equality Commission, which aided him in his case, said at the time of the incident, Mr Chefai had visited his family in Paris – but accidentally left the keys to his Belfast home at his mother’s house in the French capital.

It said that while he was waiting for the keys to be sent back to him, he checked into the Belfast International Youth Hostel in Donegall Road, in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast, for two nights and paid in advance.

The commission said: “On the second day of his stay he was in the lobby of the hostel, speaking on his mobile phone in French.

“A staff member approached him and asked him who he was. Mr Chefai replied that he was a guest, but when the staff member looked up his check-in details, and saw that he had an address in Belfast, he said that he did not need to stay in the hostel.

“The staff member told him he should leave and contacted the police. Mr Chefai felt he had no option but to leave.”

The commission went on to say Mr Chefai had been “shocked, humiliated and embarrassed”.

It quoted him as saying: “It felt to me as though assumptions were being made about my race and religion – that I was a Muslim of Middle Eastern origin – and I was being asked to leave because of someone’s opinion about me.

“Other people in the lobby could hear everything that was said which I found very embarrassing.

“I did eventually find another place to stay that night but only after some hours walking through Belfast. The whole experience was very unpleasant.”

The commission said the Youth Hostel Association of Northern Ireland Ltd has reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity and will continue to ensure that it conforms to all relevant equality legislation.

It had voluntarily arranged for its staff to undertake training with the Equality Commission.

The case was settled in October 2017, but the commission has only just released details of it.