Refugee teens say woman's racist rant in Belfast won't spoil view of Northern Ireland
Teenage refugees whose families fled war and dictatorships in Sudan and Eritrea say they won't let racist abuse hurled by a woman in Belfast city centre spoil their view of Northern Ireland.
Fatima Hasaballah (17) from Sudan was sitting at a bus stop outside City Hall with her friend Solyana Abraham (17) from Eritrea and a 13-year-old female friend who was born in Northern Ireland, but whose family hails from Zimbabwe, at around 9pm on Saturday. The trio were approached by a blonde-haired woman who shouted foul-mouthed racist insults.
In the rant, which was captured by one of the girls on her mobile phone, the woman yells that she is a "f****** Prod", and has been "homeless for the past f****** three f****** years".
Pointing at the girls, she adds: "Where they walk into the country and get f****** everything.
"See yousuns? Give it about f****** five to 10 f****** months and you'll be f****** outta here.
"Coz (sic) I'm the only f****** person f****** stands up for it.
"People like you walking into our f****** country, ours, Protestant f****** country."
One of the girls can be heard crying during the tirade.
Fatima, who is studying for her AS-Levels in psychology, science, and health and social care, and hopes to become a nurse, said the girls feared they would be "physically attacked" by the woman, who had to be restrained by two men during the "terrifying encounter".
"We were just sitting minding our own business and this woman asked us for a lighter. When we told her we didn't smoke, she kept giving us dirty looks," she recalled.
"Then she started screaming out of nowhere, telling us we'd be out of here in a few months and that we are taking everything.
"She was going to hit us, but two men pulled her back.
"It was very scary, a totally terrifying experience which lasted for 30 minutes. My friends got the bus, but I had to walk home along the route the woman took, and I was very, very scared - I thought she would come out and attack me."
Fatima says her mother was "terrified" to let her and her siblings out of the house after the incident. "I was six years old when I came over here as a refugee with my family because of the war in Sudan," she continued.
"There was a lot of fighting, so my family came to Belfast as we thought we would be safer.
"I have been staying at home more since it happened, but I don't really think it will change my behaviour in the long-term.
"People here in Belfast are really nice. They are so good and understanding, and we have got so much support since the video was put up on Facebook. It won't spoil my view of living in Northern Ireland."
Solyana, who is studying for AS-Levels in psychology, health and social care, and applied science, and hopes to become a radiographer, agrees.
"I came here with my mum four years ago as it's really bad in Eritrea - there's war and a dictatorship," she explained.
"When we got here I felt safe, there was more freedom.
"What this woman did was scary because it was unexpected, it just came out of nowhere and she was blaming us for everything that had happened to her. We were just three young students sitting outside City Hall waiting to go home.
"I have never felt like I was different here, it feels like home and I feel welcomed.
"What happened is not going to spoil my impression of Northern Ireland - we have had so much support.
"I still feel safe on the streets of Belfast and I hope this woman can be caught."
PSNI Sergeant Nicola McHenry said that police had "responded to the incident but were unable to locate the female".
Anyone with information can contact police on 101, quoting reference 1352 of 10/6/17, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.