Belfast mob 'threatened to kill Romanian children'

Twenty families forced into emergency accommodation after vicious attacks

More than 100 Romanians evacuated from their homes in Belfast following a sustained campaign of racist intimidation and violence were last night in emergency accommodation in the city.

Some of the men and women of the 20 families affected were injured in incidents which included bricks being thrown through windows, while one man said intruders had threatened to cut a child's throat.

The surge of intimidation was said by locals to be the work of "a small group of racist thugs" who had terrified the Romanian families living in two south Belfast streets. Politicians and community leaders yesterday condemned the attacks, which this week reached a peak following increased tension in the area. One councillor suggested police had been slow to react at first.

Families were given refuge first in a local church hall and later bussed to a leisure centre in another part of the city.

One man, who gave his name as Deaglaz, showed a stitched wound on his abdomen which he said had been caused by broken glass after the windows were smashed in his house.

"Ten persons, they drink, they no good, they broke in the house," he said in broken English.

Another man, Couaccusil Filuis, said the intruders had even threatened to kill children: "They made signs like they wanted to cut my brother's baby's throat," he said. "They said they wanted to kill us."

A woman in the leisure centre, who gave her name as Maria, said: "We are OK, we are safe now. But we want to go home because right now we are not safe here. I want to go home because I have two kids and I want my kids to be safe." One of the children in the centre was just five weeks old.

The incidents are the latest in a series of eruptions of racist activity which over the last decade have been directed at Poles, Africans, Portuguese, Lithuanians, Latvians, Filipinos and many other nationalities.

The attacks took place in Wellesley Avenue and Belgravia Avenue, which are high-density, low-rent streets housing many students and others on short-term lets. Close by is the loyalist Sandy Row area, with the attackers likely to be young, disaffected Protestants, although the police and locals do not believe they are members of paramilitary groups or organised gangs.

Fewer than 1,000 Romanians live in Northern Ireland, but many of them tend to be highly visible as they sell newspapers at traffic junctions, offer The Big Issue and play musical instruments such as the accordion.

The number of racist incidents has risen, last year reaching almost 1,000, but this has not halted a steady flow of immigrants.

Their arrival has given Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland a more cosmopolitan and international aspect, to the point that foreign accents are now routine rather than unusual.

The Romanians, in particular, have suffered from events following an international soccer match in March, when Northern Ireland played Poland at Windsor Park.

The game was followed by widespread disturbances involving Northern Ireland supporters and fans who had travelled from Poland. A number of people, including 11 police officers, were injured in the violence. In the days that followed the homes of both Poles and Romanians came under attack, starting the sequence which culminated in recent events.

Last Thursday the first of a series of incidents was reported. On Monday a rally held in support of the Romanians was abused and attacked by a small number of youths who threw bottles and made Nazi salutes. On Tuesday night, Romanian families gathered at one house, saying they no longer felt safe in their homes.

Malcolm Morgan, pastor at the church which housed them overnight, said he was happy to help. He added: "It's a sad indictment of our society, but hopefully we can show them a different side to Northern Ireland and a caring side of Northern Ireland." Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who visited the leisure centre, said it was a "totally shameful episode". He added: "We need a collective effort to face down these criminals in society who are quite clearly intent on preying on vulnerable women and children."

First Minister Peter Robinson described the events as deplorable, and health minister Michael McGimpsey said: "It appears to be a group of young thugs, young tearaways."

Police Superintendent Chris Noble said: "There is no authorisation by any other groups. It's a number of individuals who have taken some form of umbrage for whatever reason to people living in the community." Belfast Lord Mayor Naomi Long said: "These kinds of ugly scenes are totally unacceptable. Belfast is growing rich in diversity with people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds making this city their home. We cannot allow a small minority of people to drive people from their homes."

The authorities have arranged for the Romanians to stay in student accommodation, not far from their former homes, as a temporary measure for a week.

While the authorities say they hope they can persuade the Romanians to stay in Northern Ireland, the general sense yesterday among those affected was that they wished to leave the country.

Northern Ireland in numbers

27,000 number of immigrants to Northern Ireland between 1991 and 2007

8,000 estimated number of immigrants to Northern Ireland since EU expansion in 2007

4,900 immigrants from Poland

1,365 immigrants from Czech Republic

1,000 immigrants from Lithuania

1,000 estimated number of immigrants from Romania

900 immigrants from Slovakia

230 immigrants from Latvia

1,759,000 population of Northern Ireland

2.1 million estimated immigration to England 1991-2007

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education require a ...

SEN Teacher - Hull

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are recruiting for spe...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking EY...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHER WE CAN HELP ...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor