Belfast Telegraph

Nigerian man too afraid to move into east Belfast house after 'blatantly racist' banners erected

'Local Houses 4 Local People' banner blasted by MP

By John Mulgrew

A Nigerian man has said he is too afraid to move into a house in east Belfast after 'blatantly racist' banners were erected outside the property.

Michael Abiona (34) - who has lived in Northern Ireland for four years - said his dreams of moving in have been shattered, after posters reading "Local Houses 4 Local People" were put up outside the Housing Executive home in Glenluce Drive, Knocknagoney on Tuesday.

Alliance MP Naomi Long said the behaviour was "unwelcome in our society".

Police removed the banners on Wednesday.

Mr Abiona was allocated the home by the Housing Executive, but said he no longer wants to move in.

"It's about discrimination, it's about intimidation and it's about racism," he told the BBC.

"It speaks for itself. The's just shameful that this is happening in this era, and at this stage."

One woman behind the 'protest' said they were opposed to Mr Abiona moving in because "these bungalows are for disabled people and pensioners, they're not built for families".

"We have disabled people and old people up here that have been waiting for years to try and get one of these and they're giving them to young families which is not acceptable," she told UTV.

She did not want to appear on camera for the broadcaster.

Naomi Long said she was disgusted with the incident which"did not represent east Belfast".

"This sort of behaviour has no place in our community and does nothing but send out the message that east Belfast is unwelcoming, when we know the opposite is true," she said.

"I hope the experience has not traumatised this poor family, who should be free to live where they wish without intimidation.

“Any right-thinking person will condemn this blatantly racist behaviour and I have no doubt the vast majority of residents in the area will be sickened by it.

"It is this kind of vile behaviour that should be unwelcome in our society."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell condemned what he described as the "racist intimidation of Mr Abiona".

"Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Race hate crime has soared over the past year," he said.

"We must not allow ourselves to become sanitised to the despicableness of racism, there should never be a culture here that dilutes racism or attempts to qualify it."

Further reading

Turns out the rise of racism in Northern Ireland can be put down to ingrained attitudes as a result of the Troubles

14,000 hate crimes, just 12 convictions... and still no racial equality strategy 

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