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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 16:32 GMT
Sharp rise in racist crime
Ethnic minorities are more likely to face attack in Northern Ireland than in England
Racist crime has risen substantially in Northern Ireland over the past five years, according to statistics given to parliament.

The number of racial incidents reported to the police has increased nine-fold, while the number of recorded crimes has more than doubled.

The figures were revealed by Secretary of State Paul Murphy in the Commons on Wednesday.

Mr Murphy said: "This government condemns all racially motivated crimes and is committed to tackling such intolerance".

Proposed legislation on so-called hate crimes in Northern Ireland is to be published later this year.

Laws on racially and religiously motivated crimes have been in place in the rest of the UK for some time.

However, officials say the issue has been more complex to deal with in Northern Ireland because of the sheer volume of crimes motivated by sectarianism.

Earlier this month, a BBC News investigation found that ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland were more than twice as likely to face a racist incident than those in England or Wales.

1997: 25 incidents
1998-99: 93
1999-2000: 237
2000-01: 260
2001-02: 185
2002-03: 226
In June 2003, police in south Belfast stepped up security for minority groups in the area following pipe bomb attacks on two homes.

Earlier this year, Northern Ireland's Equality Commission noted that racist attacks in Northern Ireland were running at a higher level than in England and Wales.

They were running at 16.4 per 1,000 of the minority ethnic population compared to 12.6 in England and Wales, said the commission.

It pointed to attacks on the homes of Filipino nurses in Ballymena, County Antrim and offensive leaflets over building plans for a mosque in Portadown, County Armagh.

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