Romania’s consul general steps in South Belfast racist attacks

Romanian immigrants moved to undisclosed temporary accommodation; special protection ordered.

18 June 2009: After race attacks forced over a 100 migrants to leave their homes in South Belfast, Romania’s consul general has stepped in. Dr Mihai Delcea is holding top-level meetings in Northern Ireland with Stormont’s social development minister Margaret Ritchie.

The minister has already made it clear the families, forced to seek sanctuary in a Belfast church hall, are being offered special police protection.

“I empathise with the plight and trauma these families are experiencing and I believe it is our duty to help them,” he said. “I will ensure they are provided with temporary accommodation until we can fully assess their housing needs. I have also spoken with Dr Mihai Delcea and he has agreed to an urgent meeting with me.”

As of now the police, continuing with the probe, do not believe paramilitaries were involved in the attacks, which saw the Romanian migrants fleeing to emergency accommodation in Belfast after two houses were attacked and windowpanes smashed over the weekend.

Those involved in the heinous act allegedly shouted “Combat 18 slogans”, while a letter containing text from Hitler’s Mein Kampf was also pushed through the letterbox of one of the properties.

Police Supt Chris Noble said the information they currently had indicated it was a sporadic attack by a number of youths with no affiliation or co-ordination. "What I can guarantee is a commitment from the police service in terms of visible, responsible policing," he said.

Meanwhile, the Romanian immigrants who fled their south Belfast homes have been moved to temporary accommodation.

They arrived in two coaches and taxis at the Ozone Leisure Centre on the Ormeau Embankment in South Belfast, where the families remained throughout the day. Escorted by the police, the families with their belongings got on the waiting vehicles towards the temporary accommodations.

As of now a church hall and leisure centre are being used to provide temporary refuge for 20 families. For them, donated food and blankets from members of the community are pouring in.

Michael Graham, from the Housing Executive, said: "We have been able to find secure, comfortable and well-appointed temporary accommodation. It is important we give these families a few days to settle down and consider their own futures."

As the authorities try to come out with a long term solution to the issue, the security cordon around the temporary accommodation at the undisclosed location has been tightened, with armed police stationed outside the premises and entry restricted to those with appropriate identification.

The attacks have also led to widespread condemnation and concern. During Prime Minister’s Question Time, Gordon Brown told the Commons he hoped the authorities were able to take all the action necessary to protect them.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who visited the Ozone complex, has minced no words while saying he was “outraged and disgusted” by the abuse.

“It is a matter of great concern for us that a small group of unrepresentative group of racist criminals would attempt to effectively threaten and intimidate a very large group of people within the Romanian community,” he said.

By Monika Journo

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