Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 08:46 UK

Police defend Romanian response


The bathroom window of a Romanian family's home was smashed

Police have defended their response to a spate of attacks on Romanians living in Belfast.

In the latest incident, the bathroom window of a Romanian family's home, on the Upper Newtownards Road, was smashed at about 2300 BST on Wednesday.

More than 100 Romanians have fled their homes in south Belfast this week.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has defended the response of his officers and said they attended incidents "within 10 minutes".

He said that if people had wanted to stay in their homes his officers "would have protected" them.

"If people want to leave an area our job is to protect them as they go ... I can't stop people moving," he said.


Sir Hugh said that in some cases police responded to calls from attacked Romanian families within one minute and in others it took them 10 minutes, but that it "was a complicated situation" for officers.

"Some of the incidents related to disputes between Romanian families, it was a complicated picture that officers faced," he said.

Doctor Ion Jinga, the Romanian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, said that he had been "shocked" at recent events but said that the authorities had acted promptly to provide help.

"I was very encouraged that so many of the neighbours and local community in Belfast gave their support to these assaulted families," he said.

The Romanian Consul General is to meet Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie over the attacks.

More than 20 Romanian families, who are members of the Roma ethnic group, spent the night in temporary accommodation.

On Tuesday night, they had tried to take refuge in a single house, but were eventually taken to a church hall by police minibus.

Sorin Ciurar, who lives in the house, describes what happened

They were later moved to alternative accommodation.

Ms Ritchie said the families could stay there for at least a week.

The attack on Wednesday night was in the Ballyhackamore area of east Belfast.

Police do not believe paramilitaries were involved in the attacks.

There has been condemnation from all the political parties.

Many of those attacked have now said they want to leave Northern Ireland.

Maria Fechete said she and the other people caught up in the violence had "had enough".

"I haven't slept in a week - we've just had enough," she said.

Another Romanian woman, who did not want to be named, said she feared the attackers had come to kill her and her family, and she now wanted to go back to Romania.

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