Today, the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries have called for an inquiry into religious discrimination in Southwark Council’s burial service.
At April’s Stakeholder Meeting, faith leaders told burial Councillor Ian Wingfield and senior officers that Southwark does not provide burial suitable for most Muslim residents, nor many residents of other faiths.
Southwark officers were also reminded that a Jewish resident has complained of religious discrimination.
Now faith leaders have said the Council does not provide burial for many residents because of their faith.
At the meeting, FOCC then reminded Cllr Wingfield that for two years they have sent him and all Councillors information about the religious discrimination of the burial service - without action.
FOCC and other stakeholder groups demanded an internal investigation and a Burial Needs Assessment.
But Cllr Ian Wingfield, who became responsible for Southwark’s burial service a year ago, refused any action, saying only “any discrepancies” might possibly be reviewed at some future point.
Faced with Southwark’s continued refusal to investigate let alone stop discrimination, FOCC is calling for a public inquiry.
Southwark’s 30,000 Muslim residents experience around 270 deaths a year, 30-50% of the borough’s burial need.
The majority have to go to private cemeteries outside the borough at their own expense, as Southwark provides only 7 Muslim-area burial plots per year, unsuitable for most Muslim burials.
Meanwhile, Southwark is spending millions on thousands of new burial plots suitable for Christians and other faiths, mounding over public graves and eventually digging up thousands of private graves for resale over their remains.
Southwark’s developments continue the discrimination as most Muslim and Jewish residents by faith cannot be buried over the dead and have other burial needs.
“We have been highlighting the problem to Southwark for two years,” said Blanche Cameron, Chair of the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries.
“We need an inquiry - not just into the discrimination itself but into Southwark’s refusal to stop it.”
“Muslim and Jewish residents are only 10% of the population but 30-50% of borough burial need. Councils have a duty to promote equality in public services. Southwark has refused even to carry out a Borough Burial Needs Assessment to ensure no-one is excluded by faith.”
Refusal to take action on religious discrimination after two years of information is yet another reason why Southwark is unfit to run a burial service.
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries are fighting to save the cemeteries as nature reserves with respect for the dead and woods and nature for the living.
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | email@example.com | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
Cllr Ian Wingfield, in charge of Southwark's Burial Service and public engagement on burial, in press statement recently accused stakeholder group FOCC of lying. A complaint has been filed
Below: Hundreds of 'new' burial plots over mass graveyards unsuitable for many residents by faith
Bottom: Area Z Camberwell Old Cemetery - two acres of woods in a Grade 1 SINC clear-felled for more 'new' burial plots over tens of thousands of graves
Below: The last 10 acres of woods in Camberwell Old Cemetery Grade 1 SINC - Southwark intends to fell despite no woodland management plan, no application to the Diocese for permission and a unanimous vote by the Burial Stakeholder Group for no further felling.