Thomas Harding, telegraph.co. uk, Jan. 12, 2004
Racist thugs in Northern Ireland are forcing black people out of their homes in part of an apparently orchestrated plan to “ethnically cleanse” Belfast.
Ethnic minority leaders have called for urgent Government action to combat the wave of assaults and forced evictions.
With about one attack a day, race crime has risen by more than 900 per cent since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, as loyalist paramilitaries appear intent on forcing the immigrant population out.
The concerted attacks have been particularly focused in south Belfast where Asians, Chinese and Africans have been targeted.
In typical Belfast fashion the actions have been reinforced with graffiti of “Keep the Streets White” and more sinisterly a “Whites Only” message scrawled outside a primary school.
Non-white faces are unfamiliar in Northern Ireland whose 1.7 million population is 99.15 per cent white.
The next biggest grouping is Chinese (0.25 per cent), who have been there since the 1960s, and there are just 2,600 Africans. In one incident a South African woman, who had survived Soweto during apartheid, was attacked inside her home in the staunchly loyalist Village area in south Belfast.
Tandy, who did not want her surname published, answered a knock at the door to a group of men who shouted “get the f*** out of here”.
She ran out of the back door leaving behind her children, aged 13 and two, who remained silent upstairs as the family’s television, kitchen, fireplace and new electronic games console were smashed.
Tandy, who moved to Belfast a year ago to study for a psychology degree, said: “I’m used to this coming from South Africa. I grew up to racism but I am fed up with it here. I wanted to breathe the fresh air here but then I came across racism again. It’s a terrible experience.” She now plans to leave Northern Ireland.
An estate agent has also been threatened with having his business destroyed if he continued to let houses to ethnic minorities.
William Faulkner was told by the Ulster Volunteer Force to stop renting homes to Chinese and black people.
Loyalist paramilitaries had close links throughout the Troubles with the National Front and Combat 18. A group called the White Nationalist Party have leafleted several areas with ethnic minorities and the British National Party recently said it would field several candidates in the next council elections.
Dr James Uhomoibhi, a lecturer at Queen’s University who moved to the province from Nigeria 17 years ago, believes that ethnic groups have become “more noticeable” since the 1998 agreement.
“The issue of sectarianism has been largely removed and there are some who realise there are more ethnic people here. Racism existed before but it’s just that the violence of the Troubles has gone away. People need to be educated to learn to accept that because someone is a different colour it does not make them a threat.”