Belfast Telegraph

Neighbours rally in support of Syrian family after racist attack on Co Tyrone home

The Syrian family, whose home was one of two attacked in Dungannon on Wednesday night.
The Syrian family, whose home was one of two attacked in Dungannon on Wednesday night.
The Syrian family, whose home was one of two attacked in Dungannon on Wednesday night.

By Annamay McNally

A family who fled war-torn Syria for a new life in Co Tyrone have been left fearful for their safety after a racist attack on their home.

Husein Almassre, his partner Amaal and their four children have been living in Dungannon for around 18 months and say their neighbours are friendly and welcoming.

Mr Almassre was alerted to graffiti on the rear of his property at around 10pm on Wednesday.

A neighbour in Bernagh Gardens in the White City housing estate who is also from Syria had a stone thrown at his window on the same night.

Police are treating both incidents as racially-motivated hate crimes and the family have been receiving assistance from Dungannon community group STEP as well as SDLP councillor Denise Mullen.

Mr Almassre, whose children range in age from 11 to just two years old, told how the attack had left him and his partner very frightened.

"When I know what has happened, I am afraid, and all my family are afraid," he said.

"After coming here, the police told us, no problem, don't be afraid. Dungannon is very good, my neighbours are very good. We don't have any problems with our neighbours. They all took my children presents for Christmas."

A neighbour alerted the family to the 'Muslims out' graffiti after they had returned from town.

"My neighbour told me, sorry, do you know what has happened to your house? So I went and looked at it and my neighbour said, please, call the police now.

"The police took a photo for my neighbour, who had a stone thrown at his window. It was not broken but the stone hit the aluminium on the window. He is from Syria, he has been living here two months."

Ms Mullen said she was heartened to see the support shown to the family by the community.

She said: "Racism is a deep-seated sickness, I appeal for those responsible to go immediately to the PSNI and answer for their evil and despicable deeds.

"There is no place in Dungannon for racism from anyone or any cliques who use violence on vulnerable people who have come to Dungannon to seek sanctuary."

Families on the estate described the incidents as "disgusting" and said the actions of those responsible do not represent the community.

Bronagh Donaghy said: "There has never been any problems like this in the estate before, not even during the Troubles. Bernagh Gardens has always been mixed. It is disgusting what has happened to this lovely family and their neighbour."

Mum-of-two Julie Russell said her children had drawn cards and pictures to show the family how upset they were at what had taken place.

"This was not done by the good people around here, it is down to a select few," she said.

"There is nothing but support for the family here."

The PSNI said: "On Thursday, 26 April, police received reports that sometime overnight criminal damage had been caused to two dwellings in the Bernagh Gardens area of Dungannon.

"One house had what is believed to be a stone thrown at a window. It was not broken, however the stone scratched the window pane.

"The second house had racist graffiti spray-painted on the wall of a rear garage/shed. Everyone should be afforded the right to live in their own home without fear.

"It should be a place of sanctuary.

"Those who continue to carry out these senseless, despicable acts of wanton criminality have no place in a civilised society."

Police urged anyone with information to contact detectives on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference numbers 651 and 854 25/04/19.

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