Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 10:24 UK

'Lessons learned' on race attacks

Many of those who fled their homes are returning to Romania
Many of those who fled their homes are returning to Romania

The police have said they did not know enough about the concerns of Romanian families who fled from their south Belfast homes after a spate of attacks.

Most of the 100 people involved - members of the ethnic Roma group - are to return to Romania. Twenty-five have already left, 75 are planning to go.

Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said lessons had been learned.

A 19-year-old man arrested over the intimidation of Romanians has been released on bail pending inquiries.

Assistant Chief Constable Finlay said: "We didn't, probably, know enough about the Romanian community.

It has been difficult for us to get connections, particularly with the Roma community in Belfast

Naomi Long
Lord Mayor

"We didn't have the ability to, perhaps, reach in and understand what was going on in their lives and what their fears and apprehensions were, and perhaps we came to that slightly late.

"What we are seeing now is increased dialogue with the Romanian community. There is no support network for Romanians in Belfast and that is something everybody is keen to see supported."

However, Barbara Muldoon of Anti-Racism Network said while she welcomed the comments, last week's attacks were a repeat of similar incidents dating back six years.

"I think the police were incredibly slow to act over the last week, didn't do what they ought to do, now they say that they've learned lessons," she said.

"But we've been here before, we've heard this before, when are these lessons going to be learned?

"When are we going to have a situation where people don't return home because they have no confidence that the police can protect them?"


Belfast Lord Mayor Naomi Long said the council had tried to make contact with the Roma people.

"It has been difficult for us to get connections, particularly with the Roma community in Belfast," she said.

"The council has tried to engage with them but because of their experiences of discrimination in other parts of Europe, it has been difficult.

"It has been an extremely damaging time for our international reputation and one of the challenges moving forward is how we try and engage these people who are involved in these attacks."

Emergency funds provided by the Housing Executive are to be used to fly the Roma families back to Romania.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities said it was likely the remaining families would leave before the end of the week.

Police do not believe paramilitaries were involved in last week's attacks, which were condemned by all political parties.

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