NI-born youths tell survey they would quit city due to racial abuse
Four out of five Belfast-born teenagers from ethnic minorities have told a survey that they want to leave the city due to racial attitudes.
The City Council’s People and Communities Committee heard the “heartbreaking” results from the Belfast Youth Forum this week.
The forum’s diversity sub-group carried out a survey as part of its Minor Choices, Major Voices research project, which explores issues faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) 13-18-year-olds in Belfast.
Councillors heard that of the 23 BAME respondents to the online survey last April, the majority described themselves as black African and in full time education.
In terms of expressing their culture, 90% stated they did it through what they eat, 65% said it was through faith practices, and 61% said it was through language.
Some 70% said there were opportunities to express culture and tradition in a positive way, while 13% said there was no opportunity to do this.
Many pointed to Culture Night and the Belfast Mela as positive examples of how they can express their culture and tradition in a more inclusive way.
But when asked if in the future if they had an opportunity to leave Belfast or Northern Ireland for another country, 83% said they would go.
One respondent said: “Despite me being born and raised here I still feel that some people go out of their way to remind me that I am not from here and I am not welcome.”
Another said: “I feel that Belfast wouldn’t give me the opportunities some other countries would. I was born here but I am made to feel like an outsider. I will never be welcome in Belfast.
“I’ll have to work twice as hard for a secure job, just because I am black, and I am already at a disadvantage in securing employment.”
Respondents were also asked what kind of place they wanted Belfast to become in the future.
One responded: “A more accepting place which doesn’t revolve around the conflict between Protestants and Catholics and varies ethnicity and cultures.”
Other responses included: “A place where I don’t have to think that my outfit or general appearance will cause me to be subject to prejudice.
Carter Wickham from the Youth Forum told councillors: “The statistics around the amount of people who would choose to leave the city because they were getting racially abused — I think that says it all about the importance of a report like this.
“I think it says it all about the importance of the council taking responsibility for what is happening in the city in terms of that.
“For anyone to not feel they belong in a city due to the colour of their skin or that they have to wear clothes that correspond with their faith — that is a challenge this city has to face head on, especially for young people.”
Green Councillor and committee chair Brian Smyth said: “Even with limited responses I think it highlights the huge challenges we face in making this city more welcoming and inclusive for people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.”