Tuesday, May 30, 2006

British loyalists blamed as racist attacks on immigrants double in the north of Ireland

Owen Bowcott:

Racially motivated attacks, including pipe bombs, bricks hurled through windows and assaults, have risen sharply in Northern Ireland, according to the latest police figures. Loyalist paramilitaries are believed to be behind a significant proportion of the reported incidents, which have doubled in the past two years.

Migrant workers, mainly those from new EU states working in meat-packing and food-processing businesses, are being targeted in the latest wave of attacks. Many east Europeans have been driven from their lodgings. In the most recent attack a Polish man suffered multiple fractures to his skull and face after being attacked in Co Derry. The man, who had been selling pictures door to door, was found badly injured in the Station Road area of Magherafelt on Saturday evening. A week earlier two Poles living in Derry's Waterside had their car windows smashed and were assaulted.

In towns such as Dungannon there have also been clashes between rival ethnic groups. Officers were recently called to break up fights between Lithuanians and workers from East Timor. During 2005-06 the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recorded 936 racial incidents, of which 746 were subsequently deemed to be racist crimes. The previous year there were 813 incidents, of which 634 were confirmed as crimes. In 2003-04, 453 racist incidents were reported.

"Northern Ireland is becoming increasingly diverse at a very quick rate," said Inspector Robin Dempsey of the PSNI's community safety branch. "It is one of the biggest challenges for the police. Many racial crimes involve criminal damage - graffiti and broken windows. Unless there's a witness it's difficult to solve. These attacks involved pipe bombs, letter boxes burnt out, paint bombs and petrol bombs. The more serious have the potential to cause deaths. Some loyalist paramilitaries have an interest in the British National party. Loyalist paramilitaries are involved, though the organisations deny they have sanctioned attacks."

Northern Ireland's ethnic minority population was recorded as 14,000 in the 2001 census, accepted as an underestimate. The true figure, say the police and the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (Nicem), is probably 35,000 in settled communities, plus at least 35,000 migrant workers. Northern Ireland's population is 1.67 million. Two murders have been blamed on racist attacks, one in 2004 and the other in the mid-1990s.

Racist war of the loyalist street gangs


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