Stabbing and petrol bombs highlight rise of racism in Ulster

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The Independent Online

Extra police are patrolling in Northern Ireland in an attempt to stem a tide of racist attacks on immigrants after more violence on Latvians and Filipinos.

Extra police are patrolling in Northern Ireland in an attempt to stem a tide of racist attacks on immigrants after more violence on Latvians and Filipinos.

On Tuesday night, a gang attacked three Latvian men in their 20s walking in a park in the town of Lurgan, Co Armagh. Police say they may have been assaulted because they are immigrants. One man was stabbed in an arm, and the other two were kicked and beaten.

Jonathan Bell, a Democratic Unionist councillor, said the men were migrant workers working for him. "The overwhelming majority of people in my constituency are sickened by this," he said

Police say 38 attacks have been reported in the area since last April. Some are believed to be the work of loyalist paramilitary elements. Unconfirmed reports say the motivation for some of the attacks may be financial, with loyalists demanding "protection money" from workers, landlords or employers. Members of the substantial Portuguese community in Co Armagh have also been targeted, with individuals assaulted and homes petrol-bombed.

Police are also investigating incidents in north Belfast on Tuesday when three houses and two cars belonging to Filipino families were daubed with swastikas and racist slogans including "Chinks out". One victim, a nurse who has worked in Belfast since 2001, said: "We have lived here for three years and get on well with all our neighbours. We are here as nurses trying to help people, but someone wants to attack us because of the colour of our skin."

Complaints have also been made against a south Belfast bar whose bouncers dressed as the Ku Klux Klan on Hallowe'en night. There have been many racist attacks in the area. A spokesman for the bar said no complaints were made to them and people of different races and sexes who worked at the bar "took it as a lot of fun".

A south Belfast estate agent said internal documents on properties contain notes such as "No Chinese" and "Not suitable for Chinese or Black community". Mary Lloyd, manager of the Homefinders estate agency, said she wished to avoid exposing these people to risks of intimidation and violence.

She added: "In the past 12 months, there have been six instances when tenants of certain ethnic origins were forced to move out of their homes as a result of harassment and intimidation. In one case, the tenants were seriously injured. Although undesirable, it appears to be the only practical way of dealing with this situation."

Other estate agents in the area are said to be adopting a similar practice. The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tom Ekin, said the estate agents were giving in to racism. He said: "We are trying to build a united community in Belfast and there should be no place for this racism. People have a right to live where they want. Cities which maintain that insularity and division do not prosper."

Two weeks ago, 2,000 people turned out in Belfast for an anti-racist rally addressed by representatives of the Chinese, Muslim and gay communities. Steven Alexander of the Anti-racism Network said: "Everyone in authority needs to take action and the police need to catch and prosecute those behind racist attacks."