14,000 hate crimes, just 12 convictions... and still no racial equality strategy
Only 12 people have been successfully convicted for the 14,000 hate crimes reported in Northern Ireland in the last five years, a new report has revealed.
Last year 982 racist incidents were reported to the PSNI – an average of up to three every day.
That marks a big rise on the year before – there were 750 reports about racist incidents in 2012-13.
But despite the apparent urgency, a racial equality strategy –Stormont's masterplan for combating racism in Northern Ireland – has been stalled since 2007.
The annual Human Rights and Racial Equality Benchmarking Report said the clearance rates for racist hate crimes "are greatly disappointing".
A mere 8.3% of reported cases were successfully prosecuted between this January and April.
Patrick Yu from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, which wrote the report, said it was unacceptable that Stormont's racial equality strategy had still not been published – seven years after work began on the document.
He said recent high profile attacks, and controversial comments from a preacher on the Islamic faith, underlined the need for a strategy.
The racial equality panel was set up by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness's office in November 2010 with the task of overseeing the new strategy.
But from September 2011 until November 2012 the panel didn't meet at all.
The intended publication date in 2011 was missed, and, three years later, the document is still outstanding.
Sinn Fein has insisted that the Deputy First Minister has signed off on the strategy.
OFMDFM has indicated the strategy will be published shortly. The Belfast Telegraph contacted the department yesterday asking for a further update, but did not receive a response.
Mr Yu said: "Nicem is calling for the racial equality strategy to be published as a matter of urgency.
"There have been too many delays in the process and now is the time for action.
"In 2009 the Assembly agreed that the race relations legislation should be reformed in order to afford ethnic minorities living in Northern Ireland the same equal protection with ethnic minorities in Great Britain – this also has not happened.
"In our view, the aims of a new revamped racial equality strategy can only be effectively implemented through the reform of the race relations law in order to tackle institutional racism in Northern Ireland."
Just some of the recent incidents include:
- In January 2014 four vehicles were burned out in north Belfast in a series of hate crimes targeting Slovakian, Afghan and Polish families, with two households forced to flee.
- In March 2014 a Polish family living in the Rathcoole estate were terrorised by a loyalist gang and forced to flee after the windows of the family home were broken and a pipe-bomb was used to destroy a car.
- In May 2014 a Romanian cyclist had faeces thrown at him on the Newtownards Road. A Jamaican family in the area was targeted in a racist attack on their home later in the month.
- On June 1 two men were assaulted in a racist attack hours after having the window of their home broken in a racially motivated crime in north Belfast, forcing them to flee.