Page last updated at 09:15 GMT, Sunday, 21 June 2009 10:15 UK

Teens charged over racist attacks

A boarded up house
Many Romanian homes were attacked and vandalised

Two boys aged 15 and 16 have been charged in connection with the intimidation of Romanian families in south Belfast.

Both have been charged with provocative behaviour. The 15-year-old is also charged with intimidation.

They were arrested in the wake of vandalism and attacks on the homes of more than 100 Romanian migrants.

An interdenominational service is to be held at a south Belfast church on Sunday night.

Organisers say the service at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church will give people the opportunity to "express solidarity with the stranger in our midst as well as sorrow and shame at the racist attacks that have taken place on our community".

On Saturday, a crowd of about 200 people attended an anti-racism rally at Belfast City Hall on Saturday.

The attacks forced the Romanian people to leave their homes and seek refuge in a church hall.

The two youths are due to appear before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Monday morning, a police spokesman said.

Two houses in the Donegall Avenue area were searched during a police operation.

People at the rally
About 200 people attended an anti-racism rally at Belfast's City Hall

A number of Romanian families had to leave their homes on Tuesday and were housed in temporary accommodation.

A Romanian family was also attacked in east Belfast on Wednesday when a window was smashed in their home on the Upper Newtownards Road.

South Belfast MLA Anna Lo told the rally that most of the affected families are already preparing to leave Northern Ireland.

"The majority are making preparations to go back to Romania," she said.

"I think this is a very sad picture for Northern Ireland, that we can't protect people who have come seeking a better life.

"So many of them liked it here, they like the people here, they like their jobs - but what happened in the last few days makes them fearful of staying here."

Patricia McKeown, of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said: "We cannot accept this happening to anyone in our society, particularly those who are the most vulnerable and who have come here because they are fleeing repression in their own country and across Europe."

Barbara Muldoon, of the Anti-Racism Network, addressed those who had carried out the attacks, saying: "You do not speak on behalf of the people of Belfast or Northern Ireland.

"Your shame is not our shame."

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