Grenfell Inquiry: Government petition launched calling minister to examine discrimination role in fire

By Thomas Kingsley
Reuters

A government petition has been launched calling for an inquiry into the role of institutional discrimination in the Grenfell Tower fire.

The petition is calling for an “independent, expertise-led and community-centred” inquiry into whether institutional racism, classism and/or discrimination against religion contributed to the events leading to the fire.

The majority of the residents living in Grenfell Tower are from a black, Asian and ethnic minority background.

Nabil Choucair, a member of the survivors and bereaved families from the fire, launched the petition, telling The Independent that without the additionally proposed inquiry, the “system would fail” the families and survivors.

“Race is a major factor. The families were discriminated against because of who they were. This would never happen south of the borough,” Mr Choucair told The Independent.

He added: “Without it [the inquiry into racial discrimination] you will never have a full inquiry.

“If they don’t look at it, it’s a failure to the system and a let down to the people who lost their lives.”

The petition proposes that the inquiry should be led by “institutional discrimination experts” and examine evidence of alleged discrimination of North Kensington residents.

Nabil Choucair (L) and lost six family members in the fire (The Independent)

The Grenfell Inquiry, ongoing currently and led by retired Court of Appeals judge, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, is divided into two phases.

Phase one explores the factual narrative of the events on the night of June 14, 2017, when the fire took place. This phase began on 21 May 2018 and concluded on 12 December 2018. Phase two examines the causes of these events, including how Grenfell Tower came to be in a condition that allowed the fire to spread so aggressively.

The Inquiry’s terms of reference define the scope of the investigation and were set by then Prime Minister, Theresa May following recommendations from Sir Martin Moore-Bick.

Former Grenfell residents and members of the local community were consulted in the terms of reference recommendation process, in addition to interested companies and organisations. Of the 554 responses to the consultation, a third said the Inquiry should cover questions of discrimination toward residents.

This suggestion was not included in Sir Moore-Bick’s recommendations to the Prime Minister as they would “raise questions of a social, economic and political nature” which Sir Moore-Bick said were “not suitable for a judge-led inquiry.”

“Discrimination was a crucial point that they’ve [Grenfell Inquiry] left out,” Mr Choucair said.

He added: “If not a lot goes in to the Inquiry, not a lot will come out.

“Having discrimination in the inquiry means you can get some justice for the families, you can see who they were and why they were not listened to, and hopefully there could be a new law to protect other people in this position.”

So far the petition has received 423 signatures since being launched with its deadline set for 7 December this year. The government responds to petitions once reaching 10,000 signatures and at 100,000 signatures the petition will be considered for debate in parliament.

A spokesperson from the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We acted immediately after the Grenfell Tower fire by bringing forward an independent public inquiry, ensuring the voice of residents and those affected was heard.

“We fully support the aims of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to ensure a tragedy like this can never happen again and remain committed to implementing the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s Phase 1 recommendations.”

A spokesperson from the Grenfell Inquiry told The Independent: “The Inquiry will investigate all the decisions that were taken in relation to the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower and if any of them were motivated by considerations of race or social class, the Panel will be sure to find out; and if they do, they will certainly make robust findings in the final report.”


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