Paramilitaries hunt migrants (nd current)

Northern Irish loyalists celebrate the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholics in the 17th century with great fires. Today you are attacking migrant workers and driving them out of the Protestant neighborhoods.

Foto: imago images/NurPhoto

Hate crimes are on the rise in Northern Ireland and several families have been forced to flee Belfast in the past week. Most of the victims are migrant workers from Eastern Europe and Asia. The displaced last week were families from Portugal and Romania. Irish Catholic families are also increasingly falling victim to brutal attacks.

The evictions are taking place in Protestant neighborhoods controlled by loyalist paramilitaries. Politicians from all parties condemn the acts, but the authorities hardly act. Their hands are tied in the paramilitary areas and the police are looking the other way.

In April the world glanced briefly at Belfast when young people set fire to a bus on Lanark Way and threw incendiary devices over the meter-high concrete wall on the Catholic side. This “wall of peace” is one of eighty barriers that separate Catholic from Protestant residential areas.

The wall was erected here on Lanark Way after a Protestant loyalist mob set fire to a Catholic street in July 1969 and drove the residents there. The long Northern Ireland conflict began with the evictions on Bombay Street, which met with a wide response.

The reactions will be different in 2021: After days of rioting, the international journalists quickly left. 2021 is simply not 1969 and Brexit did not bring back the Northern Ireland conflict either. But, regardless of the world’s public, the fire continues in Belfast. The victims are migrants, the perpetrators: loyalist paramilitaries.

Forth Parade is a five-minute walk from Bombay Street on the other side of the concrete wall. On the night of last Friday, a car burned down here and a second was damaged. The windows of apartment buildings were smashed. A little later, around 9 p.m. local time, hooded men also broke the windows of a house on Woodvale Avenue one corner away. It is also located in a residential area where the paramilitaries of the Ulster Defense Association (UDA) have influence. The same UDA was behind the April riot.

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As the “Irish News” reported, the victims this time were Romanian families who came to Northern Ireland as migrant workers. In the middle of the night they had to flee their home with their children, one only two years old. Just a week earlier, a Portuguese family had also been evicted from Woodvale Avenue. At that time, nine masked men armed with sledgehammers stormed the house around 10 p.m. and set the Portuguese car on fire in front of it.

Gerry Kelly, MP for Republican Sinn Féin, condemned the attacks and blamed loyalist paramilitaries. The police classify these as “racist hate crimes”. Many more such crimes can be enumerated. On July 5, a family was evicted from north Belfast and a man was beaten with a sledgehammer. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was held responsible for the attack. And on June 2, three men with knives and firearms chased a migrant family from their home in South Belfast. The UDA has an influence here.

From the 1990s, more and more migrant workers from Eastern Europe and East Asia moved to Northern Ireland. Since the economic crisis of 2008, they have increasingly been the target of xenophobic attacks. Loyalists accuse them of stealing jobs from local workers. According to a report by the Housing Office, over 2,000 families were homeless as a result of attacks between April 2015 and October 2018 – paramilitaries were responsible for three quarters of these cases.

Racist attacks in Northern Ireland and Great Britain have increased rapidly again since Brexit. The “Belfast Telegraph” writes that an average of eight families a week report to the housing authority because they are threatened by paramilitary groups. They also continue to target Catholics. In early August, a single mother from a Protestant neighborhood in east Belfast was hit. The Sunday Life quoted a local resident: “She was expelled because she is a Catholic. There are other people waiting for their apartment. “

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