Belfast Telegraph

Windows smashed in second hate crime attack on home of Syrian family living in Armagh

Graffiti stating ‘local only’ was daubed on the house in Armagh
Graffiti stating ‘local only’ was daubed on the house in Armagh
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Police are investigating a second racist attack on the home of a Syrian family in Armagh.

Windows were smashed at the property in Alexander Avenue at around 1.40am yesterday morning, just two days after graffiti saying 'local only' was daubed on the wall.

The PSNI said a male who is described as being 5ft 5in with a stocky build and wearing a grey/white hooded top was seen at the property.

"These incidents are being treated as racially motivated hate crimes," police said.

"We would appeal to anyone who witnessed the incident or who saw anything suspicious in the area to contact police in Armagh Station on 101, quoting reference number 81 of August 12, 2019.

"Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime."

Alliance councillor Eoin Tennyson said he was "shocked and disgusted" by the sustained harassment.

"There is no place for this disgusting and blatantly racist behaviour which has no support among the wider community," he said.

"This incident is in no way a true reflection of our borough, which is - and will remain - a diverse, open and welcoming place to live.

"This has been an incredibly distressing experience for the family, who have already been through so much.

"I'd like to thank the police and statutory agencies for their robust response to this incident.

"I would appeal to anyone with information to please pass it to the police via 101."

Jackie Coade, an Alliance representative for the area, added: "This is the second day I have been responding to abuse this family has been subjected to.

"There is no place for hate in our community.

"This family have suffered enough. This has to stop."

Other residents took to social media to voice their anger at the intimidation.

In June, the Department of Justice commissioned an independent review of Northern Ireland's hate crime legislation on issues like racial abuse and the display of paramilitary flags.

The 12-month review is being led by Judge Desmond Marrinan, with the hope of making legal processes easier for victims to understand and for police to act on.

Speaking after the launch, he told the BBC that racist hate crime has now overtaken sectarian crime in Northern Ireland.

"There are approximately 1,500 cases dealt with by the police in the last financial year," the judge said.

"But they acknowledge that is only the tip of the iceberg - there's probably between 7,500 and 10,000 race hate crimes committed in Northern Ireland every year."

He added that the rates of racist abuse here remained so "stubbornly high" because it was often unpunished and victims were afraid to report them.

Part of Judge Marrinan's remit will be to agree a definition of a hate crime.

Many Syrian families have come to Northern Ireland after a scheme was set up in 2015 to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees across the UK.

The first group of 50 Syrian refugees arrived here in December 2015.

Since then, Northern Ireland has welcomed groups of refugees every other month, with around 80 people arriving in each group.

As of February this year, 326 families, comprising 1,332 people, had arrived.

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