Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 12:19 UK

'40 flee' after World Cup riots

Polish fan confronts police
Eleven police officers were injured during the trouble

More than 40 foreign nationals have left their homes in Belfast following riots involving NI and Polish football fans, it has been claimed.

The Polish Association Northern Ireland said people "were fearful".

The trouble flared before, during and after a World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park last month. Eleven police officers were injured.

However, Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker said he believed the figure of 40 was "without evidence".

The Polish Association said a total of 46 people have left the Village and Albertbridge Road areas of south and east Belfast.

It said that at least five people had decided to leave Northern Ireland permanently.

What these sorts of claims do is detract from the good work that is being done to build better relations
Councillor Bob Stoker

It has been claimed that Hungarians, Lithuanians and Slovakians, as well as Poles, have been targeted following the riots in a number of different parts of Belfast on Saturday 28 March.

"The people that have left their homes are mostly people with young children," said Maciek Bator of the Polish Association.

Although Mr Bator said there had been intimidation in recent weeks, most people decided to leave of their own accord because they were scared.

"They said they had good relationships with their neighbours and people living in their streets but that they still felt it was best to leave before something might happen," he added.

"A lot of these people lived in private accommodation so wouldn't have dealt with the Housing Executive."

Fan trouble
Rival fans threw bricks, bottles and traffic cones on their way to the game

Councillor Stoker said: "While I would obviously condemn attacks on people wherever they're from, I'm greatly concerned about people bandying figures like this about without any solid evidence.

"What these sorts of claims do is detract from the good work that is being done to build better relations with people from eastern Europe.

"And this is not only in recent weeks, but over the course of the last 18 months."

A Housing Executive spokesman said eight people had "presented themselves as homeless" in south Belfast, citing "trouble in the Village as the reason".

A police spokeswoman said patrols had been stepped up in parts of south and east Belfast in a bid to ease tensions.



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