115 Romanians flee British homes after racist attacks

June 17th, 2009 - 1:58 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 17 (IANS) More than 100 Romanians have been moved to the safety of a church after mounting racist attacks in the city of Belfast forced them to try and huddle together in a single home, police said.
Police said Tuesday they helped about 20 families to vacate their homes in a southern neighbourhood in Belfast, the capital of the British province of Northern Ireland.

Days of racism culminated Monday night in a neo-Nazi attack on an anti-racism rally in the same area.

Police said 115 people, who include a five-day-old baby, first sought safety in a single house thinking their numbers would keep them safe.

But there were so many they did not fit in, prompting a local church to offer them the use of its hall.

Days of racist incidents have been strongly condemned by all sections of Northern Ireland, a province that has begun to emerge after decades of sectarian violence between majority Protestants and minority Catholics.

“It is a sad indictment of our society, but hopefully we can show them a different side to Northern Ireland and a caring side to Northern Ireland,” church Pastor Malcolm Morgan said.

Belfast Lord Mayor Naomi Long urged the south Belfast community to rally round their Romanian neighbours.

Condemning Monday night’s violence, she said: “These kind of ugly scenes are totally unacceptable.

“A small minority of people have sadly taken away from an event which had been organised by the local community to show solidarity for their Romanian neighbours, and to express their abhorrence at their homes being subjected to racist attacks.”

Anna Lo, the local Alliance Party member of the Northern Ireland legislative assembly, said the Romanian families were “very frightened” after rising incidents of racism, including bricks being thrown through windows.

“They are really very frightened,” she said.

“The women, when they were talking to me yesterday, they were really upset, tears in their eyes and said, ‘You know we love it here, we’d like to live here, but we’re too scared’.

“A woman showed me her shoulder which was quite bruised and cut across, she was hit across the shoulder.”

One of the Romanian women, who did not want to be named, said she had feared the attackers had come to kill her and her family, and she now wanted to go back to Romania, the BBC reported.

But the help of the church had shown a positive side to the people of Belfast as well, she added.

Jolena Flett of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities said the Romanians had been threatened verbally and then three properties were attacked on the same day.

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