A number of Romanian families have been been forced from their homes in Belfast in recent days by a racist mob claiming to be from the fascist group Combat 18, it can be revealed.
Their south Belfast homes came under sustained attack from Thursday evening, with their windows smashed and doors kicked in by crowds of thugs gathering outside shouting racist slogans. One family fled from their home in Belgravia Avenue. Another family, with a newborn baby, has been left terrified after their home at Wellesley Avenue came under attack just days after they were forced out of another property.
A number of local residents last night stood guard outside their new home in a bid to protect them. One local resident, Paddy Meehan, said: “About 12 of us worked in shifts to defend the house last night. Local residents think these people have to be defended. These thugs have been shouting that they are Combat 18 and they dropped a letter containing text from Hitler’s Mein Kampf through the letterbox of one of the properties.
“This has been going on for several nights. Sometimes there is about 20 of them gathering outside the properties. There is a hardcore of maybe six or seven shouting abuse and kicking doors down. These families are terrified, so are all their young children. They feel very isolated which is why the local community is gathering around them to support them,” he added.
The PSNI said police in south Belfast are investigating a number of racist attacks and criminal damage to properties and a car in Wellesley Avenue and Belgravia Avenue on a number of occasions between June 11 and 14. A spokeswoman added: “A crowd gathered on each occasion at the properties and a number of windows were smashed. Police have not received reports of any injuries.”
Residents in south Belfast are planning to stage a protest outside the Mace shop on the Lisburn Road this evening to show their support for the Romanian families and to call for an end to the racist attacks. These attacks come at a time of increased racial tensions in Northern Ireland.
The PSNI’s annual crime statistics have shown that incidents of racism, which range from verbal abuse to physical attacks, are continuing to rise across the province. Almost 1,000 incidents were reported to police within the space of 12 months. Earlier this year more than 40 foreign nationals were intimidated out of their homes in Belfast over a two-week period.
The Polish Association said in April that, following violent clashes between Northern Ireland and Polish football fans before a World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park, 46 people fled the Village area of south Belfast and Albertbridge Road area in the east of the city because of physical abuse and attacks on property.