British black man, beaten by racists to within an inch of his life. (warning explicit pictures)

British black man, beaten by racists to within an inch of his life

What support do Black British citizens,
receive from the
British government, when travelling or working abroad and who find themselves, victims of crime,?

Given the Windrush scandal, where black British citizens were forcibly and illegally deported, despite having all the objective evidence necessary, proving their British citizenship, it is perfectly reasonable, to ask what support do black British citizens get, from 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 initially 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 jobs both in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Before we start the story proper, Leon reports he tried desperately, to get British media to cover this incident, 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 colour seeking, to live or work in the former Eastern Bloc nations, now European countries. The British Embassy will not help you and just as you endure 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 application, 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, he was finally  offered a job in e-customer service.

Leon excitedly flew out to Bulgaria on 19 May 2018.

Once he arrived in Sofia, he 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.

The 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 marginalised, denied customer facing roles, and suffering the assumption that Bulgarian staff could speak better English and French, than he could. After six months of marginalisation and surviving on a low salary, without any professional respect or regard for equality and diversity, 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. Leon decided to take it.

Now, he was earning more money and his work colleagues seemed more friendly. Leon was  eager to make new friends and eventually was befriended by a young Tunisian guy named Aziz. He and  Leon became good friends.

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 new found 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 then decided to Aziz's new fiends house. in Sofia’s town centre.

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 in Sofia in such match days, there is an " informal curfew" and that most non-white foreigners in the city, knew not to be around the town centre, during this local derby,

Leon Koffi. Copyright Lee Jasper
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 was about to get much worse, as a marching the city centre,  was taking place led by Bulgarian neo-Nazis. Everybody in town knew to stay away.

As they were  all making their way to their friends local home, they came across, what Leon thought, were police officers, in formation doing drills.

Whilst  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 and round house kicked in the face. The force of the blow, literally threw him across road, into a advertising billboard.

Leon then began to lose consciousness but could still hear them making monkey noises, whilst reigning down blows upon him until he finally blacked out. He suffered a savage beating, at the hands of neo fascists, an attack  that took place in in full public view of the Police, and for no other reason, than being an African, in the wrong place at the wrong time

Leon regained consciousness in a confused state and was to the local hospital.  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 reports. 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 he could see and hear his body being physically assaulted, he reported that it felt like it was happening to somebody else, and that he was an outside observer, hovering above his own body.

He reported, several periods of leaving his body and drifting in and out consciousness, during one episode he heard a voice say to him "I made it, I will fix it" and in that moment snapped back into his physical body and began to feel the profound pain is mind had shielded him from. He credits Almighty God himself, with literally saving his life.

Two Bulgarian police officers, visited him at the hospital, where he gave his first interview. Despite being busted up, the officers insisted that Leon was not a victim, but the witness to an attack,. They refused to accept that Leon was the victim of a brutal, racist beating.

He was also visited by a woman representing the British Embassy, who told him after offering  some basic information leaflets, told him  bluntly "there is nothing we can do for you."

They did, however 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 organisation dedicated to combating hate crimes in Bulgaria, heard of the case and offered to represent him

Leon stayed in hospital for two weeks, and was treated for a 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 anaesthetic. Leon was in deep pain and unable to eat for many months.

The case was featured on national Bulgarian television news and on local  Nova TV. As a result, the case gained national traction on social media. Leon  then became the target of vicious internet trolls and Bulgarian neo-Nazis. He says 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 and present danger. The case had led to Leon bing dubbed and identified in the local media as "the first black man, brave enough to speak openly about Bulgarian neo-Nazi racism."

Leon reports that the British Embassy, showed very little to no interest at all, in providing him with support. He states that they, didn't seem to believe that he was the victim of a vicious racist attack by neo-Nazis or they simply didn't care. They offered him virtually no support throughout this period.

Once he left hospital, Leon was being followed, harassed in public, and threatened. As a result he was further  psychologically traumatised, deeply fearful, and living in constant dread of another attack.

Being one of the few Africans in Sofia  Leon was easily identifiable. His neighbours and friends followed by protection team such were their fears for his public safety.

On seeking to return 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  He was forced to survive on vouchers and food banks, while he appealed the decision to deny him benefits. Thankfully 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 was fully informed about 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, compensation for the brutal beating and serious injuries he sustained,. He also needs to be fully compensated for his loss of income, trauma and emotional distress, he's been forced to endure as a constant consequence of being the victim a racially motivated crime.

British embassies must be given immediate guidance and need to be made aware of what to do, when Black British citizens become victims of racism.. It is incumbent on the British government to ensure that British embassies are trained and can provided the necessary resources and support that can assist our citizens abroad.

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  legal representation in a country they 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 no-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 Green Book -  "Rough Guide to Racism In Europe.”

For press interviews with Mr Koffi please contact Lee Jasper.

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