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Racist attacks: The police need to get somebody up in front of a judge for these attacks

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Sinn Fein councillor Mairtin O Muilleoir, brought gifts to the families affected yesterday afternoon

Sinn Fein councillor Mairtin O Muilleoir, brought gifts to the families affected yesterday afternoon

Leaving: Ashraful Alam

Leaving: Ashraful Alam

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Sinn Fein councillor Mairtin O Muilleoir, brought gifts to the families affected yesterday afternoon

Flanked on his sofa by his two young daughters, the eyes of Ashraful Alam welled up as he contemplated uprooting them from their home for their own protection.

He brought his family to Northern Ireland from Bangladesh to better their lives with a fresh start.

But while they had settled in their new home, enjoying the new chapter of their lives in Belfast, racists yesterday turned their happy existence upside down.

Unaware of the gravity of the situation that had unfolded just hours before, the Alam girls, aged seven and four, yesterday played with toys in their front yard on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The burned out people carrier owned by their next-door neighbour sat just yards away.

Just as poignant as Mr Alam's account, was the sentiment of the car's owner.

While he could have been forgiven for harbouring feelings of anger against those who put his family's safety at risk, the victim was more concerned of the damage to Belfast and Northern Ireland's reputation.

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The Kuwaiti man moved here two years ago with his wife and their four young children. They found themselves living next door to the Alams who had moved from Bangladesh and who they consider friends. Both families felt well settled, with their children going to local schools.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the Kuwaiti victim, who didn't want to be named, said: "We feel scared now.

"We don't know the reason we were attacked because we haven't done anything wrong.

"Before, some children aged 12 or 13 threw stones but nothing like this now.

"We love Belfast and I feel, like you, a citizen of this country. The people are good."

The victim was awakened by a crashing sound in the early hours of yesterday. He looked out in horror as flames burst from his vehicle.

The family hid in a back room until police and the fire service arrived. The man's children range from just one to 11 years old.

Next door, his neighbour and friend, Mr Alam, who works in Belfast, said he felt he had no choice but to leave, scared for the safety of his family.

Sinn Fein councillor Mairtin O Muilleoir, brought gifts to the families affected yesterday afternoon.

He said he was angry and frustrated at the attacks. "It is a thundering disgrace and we need two things to happen," he said.

"We need the community to rally round, led by the churches, and we need the police to step up and get somebody in front of a judge for these racist attacks," said the Sinn Fein man.

"This city can only follow one path, it's a diverse city, and we have to make sure that happens."

Ulster Unionist councillor Graham Craig was equally scathing of the culprits.

"For years Northern Ireland welcomed newcomers to our capital city," he said. "We must stand together in tackling hate crime and I urge communities to do just that."

Earlier this year the Belfast Telegraph revealed two racist attacks were taking place every day in Northern Ireland, giving rise to fears Belfast was rapidly becoming the race hate capital of the UK.


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