Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 17:56 UK

Roma's exit 'more than racism'

The families left Northern Ireland last month
The families left Northern Ireland last month

A senior Housing Executive official has said the recent departure of members of the Roma community from Belfast may have been linked to more than racism.

Michael Graham played a key role in facilitating the return of more than 100 immigrants to Romania.

Mr Graham said he believes had they been entitled to public funds, their decision to leave may have been different.

However, the NI Council for Ethnic Minorities said it disagreed with this.

"We believe one of the main reasons they left is because they feared for their safety," spokesperson Jolena Flett said.

Housing Executive funds were used to fly the families home last month.

"Racism was certainly the catalyst by which the people finally determined that they wanted to go home," Mr Graham said.

"But, I still believe that, had these people been entitled to public funds, which unfortunately they weren't, their decision may have been different."

Anti-Racism Network spokeswoman Barbara Muldoon said Mr Graham's comments were irresponsible.

"One of the myths that has stoked up racism and racist attacks on migrants has been the fallacy that they are in a country to claim state benefits," she said.

"This myth has been exposed time and time again, and for anyone in a senior public position to raise this myth when attention needs to be focused on racism itself is irresponsible."

Print Sponsor

Housing 'not favouring migrants'
07 Jul 09 |  UK Politics
Racism in Northern Ireland
17 Jun 09 |  Northern Ireland
Romanians leave NI after attacks
23 Jun 09 |  Northern Ireland
Police defend Romanian response
18 Jun 09 |  Northern Ireland
Fleeing Romanians are rehoused
17 Jun 09 |  Northern Ireland
Locals on Romanian attacks
17 Jun 09 |  Northern Ireland
Community condemns 'racist thugs'
17 Jun 09 |  Northern Ireland

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific