Migrant workers are a benefit to Northern Ireland's society and should be protected from racists, a leading loyalist has claimed.
Former Progressive Unionist Party leader Dawn Purvis spoke out in defence of minorities who have come under sporadic attack in parts of the province.
The East Belfast Assembly member warned communities not to be influenced by racists attempting to turn opinion against migrants, and applauded the contribution of new arrivals.
She said: "I want to be clear - migrant workers are here, they are here to stay and they are an important and positive part of not only our economy, but of our community.
"They bring additional skills that bolster our workforce, they fill holes in our labour market and improve the cultural diversity of our country."
Speaking in an interview for Minority Rights Now, the magazine of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, Purvis slammed what she said was the "constant misrepresentation of the migrant workers versus indigenous workers issue".
"For me there is no migrant workers 'versus' indigenous workers, there is only migrant workers 'and' indigenous workers," she said.
"These misconceptions and misdirections range from `they steal our jobs' to `they send all their money home' and lots in between.
"It is my view that these views are simply racism masquerading as fact, opinions based on ignorance or falsehood - they are simply untrue."
She added: "There will always be those who wish to stir racial tensions and public disorder, it is our responsibility as citizens to ensure they do not succeed, that misinformation is corrected and that those coming to our shores are welcomed and protected, treatment we would expect to receive on the shores of other nations."