By Chris Kilpatrick – 06 October 2014
A father of two young girls fought back tears as he told how he was too afraid to stay in his Belfast home after a terrifying race hate attack.
The ordeal of the two families is the latest in a wave of hate crimes in Northern Ireland over the past 18 months. It prompted the head of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities to say the threat posed to foreign nationals here was higher than ever. And Patrick Yu predicted the problem would only get worse unless urgent action is taken.
The perpetrators struck at 3am yesterday in the Ulsterville Avenue area of south Belfast. Their targets were a Bangladeshi family – Mr Alam’s – and the Kuwaiti family next door.Four children were in the Kuwaiti house when the thugs struck.
And Mr Alam, whose family has lived and worked in the area for the past five years, said he and his wife were too scared to remain in the neighbourhood. “I think we have to move from this street,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “It’s too dangerous for my family. “They’ve also thrown bottles at the house, taken stuff from the yard – took my cycle. My child cut her toes on a broken bottle. “I heard a noise about 3am – a boom. I checked my windows and I saw one was broken. I was wondering ‘What should I do’?
“I saw one boy covering his face and he had a bottle. He poured liquid over the car then set it on fire. Then I got scared.”
The attacks are the latest in an explosion of hate crimes the PSNI has blamed on loyalist paramilitary groups. Patrick Yu, director of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, called for urgent action to stop the problem spreading even further.
“Work to stop those people carrying out these attacks can only be done through the community,” he said. “The police can only react to what happens. It is the role of communities to end this.
“Previously, we saw this in east Belfast. Then everything moved to north Belfast. Now we are seeing it in south Belfast.
“Sectarianism and racism are two sides of the same coin. It goes back to the same old issue.”
SDLP councillor Declan Boyle said he was disgusted by yesterday’s attack. “This was a despicable act that could have caused death – make no mistake about that,” he added. “I praise the good work of the Fire and Rescue Service and am thankful that danger to life was averted.”
Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown also condemned the perpetrators. He said: “This was a horrendous experience for these two families. “Belfast welcomes people from around the world who make this city their home, and the community unites in support of these families. “Their contribution to our city enriches it culturally, economically and socially and stands in contrast to the cheap thuggery of the attackers. “This latest attack has yet again shown why the Racial Equality Strategy must be implemented in full and given the resources it requires to prevent this type of crime.”
A spokesman for the PSNI confirmed the force is treating the incident as a hate crime and urged anybody with information to come forward.
Rise of race attacks
SEPTEMBER 2014: A Hungarian man said he, his wife and five-month-old daughter were too scared to return to their home after a series of race-hate attacks. Atilla Biro (28) was speaking after three attacks in a 16-hour period.
Mr Biro said a Hungarian friend was threatened at knifepoint and told to get out of the area. The same weekend two Hungarians were injured after being attacked by a knife and hatchet-wielding gang.
A knife-wielding gang threatened other Hungarians living in two houses at Hesketh Park.
All of the attacks are being treated as race hate crimes by police.
AUGUST 2014: An African boy whose house was attacked had invited all the children in his street to his birthday. Bricks were hurled through the windows of two properties belonging to Sudanese families in north Belfast. Mohammed Idris and his family were left terrified.
His son was seven, but instead of celebrating, the family was wondering if they were safe. “Now he does not want to go out and play, he wants to stay inside,” said Mr Idris.
AUGUST 2014: One of the most prominent advocates of ethnic minority rights in Northern Ireland said she wanted to quit the country because of an upsurge in attacks.
Nisha Tandon, who has been living here almost 40 years, was awarded an OBE for services to the community, but she admitted she would leave if she got the chance.
“I’ve brought my children up here and never regretted coming to live here,” she said. “But after all the attacks, I have started asking myself, ‘Do I want to be here long-term’? I don’t think so.”
JULY 2014: A mother-of-two told of her terror after a gang paint-bombed her home during a racist rampage in east Belfast.
Badly shaken by the ordeal, Ruzena Lakatosova said she too was considering moving her family from the area.
Homes and cars were damaged and graffiti daubed on walls in a spate of eight linked hate crimes against Romanians and Slovakians.
The windows of two houses in Bloomfield Avenue and Chobham Street were smashed. Paint was also thrown over the second property. Two cars were damaged in Rosebery Street and Ravenscroft Street.
JUNE 2014: A Turkish man told of his terror after he was assaulted in broad daylight. Musa Gulusen works at a stall in Belfast’s Royal Avenue, beside H&M. The 45-year-old, who has lived in Belfast for more than 20 years, says he is subjected to racist abuse almost every day – but it goes “in one ear and out the other”. However, in June he was assaulted by two men. He said: “They were passing my stall, they called me a P**i b*****d. “I thought he was joking me or messing about. They ripped my shirt and punched my face. My wrist was broken.”