Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Ethnic minorities 'new Northern Ireland victims'

Romanians were forced to leave their homes in the Lisburn Road area in south Belfast due to a spate of racist attacks in June

Ethnic minorities have become the new victims in Northern Ireland following the end of the troubles, the head of a migrants` group has claimed.

Patrick Yu said ugly scenes this year when 113 Roma Romanians were forced from their south Belfast homes were part of a growing spiral of violence against vulnerable workers and families.

There were 771 racist crimes last year, fewer than the number of sectarian incidents but on the increase. Most involved criminal damage or assaults.

Mr Yu, Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities executive director, said: "Racial violence and harassment is an extreme form but increasingly a common norm of racism in Northern Ireland," he said.

"The 1994 ceasefire marked the start of a growing spiral of violence against ethnic minorities, who have become the new victims in Northern Ireland`s post-conflict society. Is this the peace dividend for ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland?"

More than 100 immigrants returned to Romania after the June attacks, which made headlines around the world. Vandalism left 20 terrified families staying in a church hall one night after leaving their homes. Many spent the following evening at the Ozone leisure centre in south Belfast, after being taken there from the church hall.

Mr Yu added xenophobia behind the attacks was shared by most in the local community based on false information. He was writing in a news sheet focusing the issue.

"In order to address racism, we need to shift the focus from non-discrimination on to human rights protection and the equality principles under human rights laws," he said.

"It is about mainstreaming race into government policy and practice and the positive duty of the state to ensure that fundamental rights are guaranteed without discrimination and distinction. Only affirmative action can redress the inequalities of the past and those still existing in social institutions, as well as the disadvantaged position of ethnic minorities in our society."

He said there should be equality of results as well as equality of opportunities. "In a nutshell, it is all about the recognition, acceptance and accommodating of social and cultural differences of minority ethnic people in our society."

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