BELFAST, June 3 (RIA Novosti), Mark Hirst – All ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland are living in a state of fear following the latest racist attack on two Pakistani men living in North Belfast, a leading Asian community leader has told RIA Novosti.
Dr Raied Al-Wazzan of the Belfast Islamic Centre said, “It is not only the Asian community that are worried here, it’s all ethnic minorities.
“We don’t have a very big Asian community, in fact it is very small compared to other ethnic minorities of Indians, Chinese and Polish, so all of them are worried,” Al-Wazzan told RIA Novosti.
Al-Wazzan’s comments came after two Asian men had their homes attacked and were assaulted in a racist incident. The men have since left Northern Ireland fearing further attacks on them.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed a 57-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident. Last month a senior police source said the sharp rise in race hate attacks amounted to “a taste of ethnic cleansing”.
Police figures reveal there has been a 30 percent rise in race hate crimes in the province, up from 750 incidents in 2012 to 982 last year.
If the current trend in attacks continues 2014 could see an even steeper rise.
“Last week 4000 people demonstrated in Belfast city centre against the rise in racism,” Al-Wazzan told RIA Novosti. “There is a bit of fear amongst the communities about where this is going to lead to.
“We, as community leaders know we have to work to bring people together and improve race relations in Northern Ireland,” Al-Wazzan added.
Meanwhile Belfast Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has launched what he has described as a ‘Compassionate City Charter’, an initiative which he hopes will be backed by all community and political leaders.
Belfast City Councillor Deirdre Hargey, of Sinn Fein, welcomed the Mayor’s initiative and told RIA Novosti, “It’s vital political leaders right across the community are seen to be standing shoulder to shoulder against those involved in hate crime whether it be sectarian or racist in character.
“The message must go out in the clearest of terms that there is no place for racial or sectarian intolerance in this society,” Hargey told RIA Novosti.
Al-Wazzan added, “We will work with the police, with government departments and other ethnic minority groups and the community relations council and try to bring an education programme for young people showing them how to live side-by-side and share space between them.”