Wednesday 17 June 2009

Romanians flee Belfast racist attacks

Romanian families forced to shelter in a church hall after fleeing their homes in Belfast in the wake of racist attacks are vowing to leave Northern Ireland for good.

More than 100 Romanian nationals spent Tuesday night (June 16) in Belfast's City Church near Queen's University after evacuating their homes in the Lisburn Road area in the south of the city.
Police helped up to 20 families leave their houses and set up in the hall. Volunteers provided bedding and food.

One local resident and volunteer, Paddy Meehan, said terrified Romanian families fled after attacks on their homes:

"They were worried with very young children, just a few day old baby in the house, that they couldn't feel safe there with these young people that could be attacked, and a broken window with glass fell on them. Already residents, people living in the house have been injured by stones thrown through the window."

Meehan said threats had been to the Romanians outside Belfast's City Church:

"They felt they would be safer together, it was suggested that they come along to the church tonight to stay together. It's unfortunate now that people have threatened them outside the church."

On Wednesday (June 17) most of the Romanian families were taken to a leisure centre in south Belfast, where they will spend the rest of the day. They said they did not want to return to their Belfast homes and many have decided to pack up and return to Romania.

Simmering racial tensions in the area have erupted over recent days, culminating in an attack on a rally in support of the east European migrants on Monday night (June 15).

Youths hurled bottles and made Nazi salutes at those taking part in the anti-racism rally.

Police patrols were stepped up in a bid to stop the racist attacks which have continued for four days after festering for months.

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