A university graduate was refused a room at a hotel because staff suspected she might be a Romanian prostitute.
Alecsandra Puflea tried to check into a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Hull with her boyfriend on July 6, but says she was turned away after the receptionist found out she was from Romania.
The 22-year-old criminology and forensic science graduate from Hull University had booked the room online. When Miss Puflea arrived she claims the receptionist said: “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept Romanians.”
The hotel introduced a policy of screening guests they believed could be engaging in illegal activity after other Romanian women were found to be using the rooms for prostitution.
Humberside Police, who investigated a complaint from Miss Puflea, said the hotel has now apologised to her and is reviewing its policy.
“It was an awful experience and quite shocking,” Miss Puflea said.
“He took one look at my ID and said that I could not stay in the hotel. I tried to show him my British driver’s licence but he said I could not stay in the hotel because I was from Romania.
“I was really confused and I didn’t understand why they would do this. There were other customers standing around so I was very embarrassed and I don’t want to be embarrassed by my country.
“I was in such disbelief and shock that I left the hotel.”
It was only when Miss Puflea complained to police about what happened that she discovered the reason they had turned her away.
“I was very upset when I found out the reason they had told me to leave,” she said.
“Not all Romanians are prostitutes, it is a very small percentage.
“Even though it made more sense when I found out about the problems they have had in the past, it is still discriminatory and it is still wrong.
“You can’t tar everyone with the same brush because of their nationality.”
Debra Hutchins, manager at the Holiday Inn Express, declined to comment on the reasons why Miss Puflea was refused a room but denied she was turned away because of her race.
“This is definitely not a case of racial discrimination and the hotel declines to comment any further,” she said.
Miss Puflea said she believes the receptionist assumed she was a prostitute based solely on her nationality.
As a volunteer with the support network Together Women and the Hull Youth Justice Service, Miss Puflea believes nobody should be judged on first appearances.
“The hotel should change its policy,” she said. “I would like them to change their attitude towards Romanians. They need to have more flexibility.
“This form of discrimination is very, very wrong, particularly from a large company like this.
“At the very least they should make people aware of this policy if they are going to continue it, so this doesn’t happen to someone like me again.”
A spokesman for Humberside Police confirmed officers had investigated a complaint from Miss Puflea.
In a statement, the force said: “Police have been dealing with a hate incident whereby a lady was refused a room at a Hull city hotel allegedly due to a policy they had in place.
“The victim believed the reason she was turned away from the hotel, despite booking her room online, was due to her race.
“Officers have spoken to the general manager of the hotel and their policy is to be reviewed.
“Humberside Police take discrimination seriously and have separate reporting and investigation channels at their disposal.
“It is reassuring to hear the victim has accepted the hotel’s apology and the hotel are reviewing their local policy in order to prevent potential discrimination occurring in the future.”
Detective Chief Inspector Tony Cockerill said it is important businesses who suspect people may be being exploited should contact the police.
He said: “Sexual exploitation is often seen as an invisible crime that many would not be able to spot or feel confident reporting.
“To help tackle this, local businesses, including hotels, taxi firms and takeaways are encouraged to report anything suspicious to the police.
“We have a great relationship with our local businesses and hope this will continue.”