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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?