MP Naomi Long launches new service for Polish community after race attacks in east Belfast
A new Polish service has been launched in response to the needs of the growing number of migrants living in east Belfast by its MP Naomi Long.
The development comes days after a series of organised hate crime attacks on the Polish community living in Sydenham and other parts of the east of the city.
There have been seven such attacks in the last two weeks.
The Alliance MP said the plans for a Polish service had been in the pipeline for some time and will give people the same access to assistance as other constituents, but in their native language.
A native Polish speaker will be working in the Alliance office on the Upper Newtownards Road and will act as the first point of contact for those who find it easier to converse in the Polish language.
Ms Long said the service was a response to the growing diversity of constituents seeking her help and had been in development over recent months with the assistance of the Belfast Migrant Centre. East Belfast has a large Polish community.
"It is important to me that people who move into east Belfast, regardless of where they have come from, feel part of the community," she said.
"Access to services such as being able to seek help from your MP is a vital cornerstone of democracy, one of which more people will now be able to avail.
"I already provide services in a number of languages and formats, drawing in people from all backgrounds, but I felt that due to the increasing volume of Polish people contacting me, a dedicated Polish-speaking member of staff was a way to make things more accessible for people from that community."
She is confident Polish constituents will find it useful, and urged anyone with any queries to get in touch.
The Belfast Migrant Centre is a consortium of Unison, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Polish Association (NI) and the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) under the Welcome House Project. It aims to tackle racism and eliminate barriers against new and settled migrant communities in Northern Ireland. The Belfast Migrant Centre has been working with East Belfast MP Naomi Long to develop a new Polish service in her constituency office on the Upper Newtownards Road. For more information call the Alliance Party office on 028 9047 2004.