THERE has been been widespread condemnation of a spate of race hate attacks in east Belfast which police say were “orchestrated”.
The attacks were carried out by masked men on the homes and property of Romanian and Slovak families.
It is the latest in a series of attacks on foreign national families including Poles and Nigerians in recent months as part of a UVF-inspired ‘ethnic cleansing’ campaign.
Homes and cars were attacked and racist graffiti daubed on gable walls near Chobham Street and at a junction of Elmdale Street and Bately Street.
The windows of two houses in Bloomfield Avenue and Chobham Street were smashed overnight. Paint was also thrown over the second property.
Two cars were damaged in Rosebery Street and Ravenscroft Street.
A group of men were seen running off towards the Ravenscroft area shortly after the graffiti appeared.
The vehicle that was attacked in Rosebery Street was covered in paint and all of its windows were broken.
Police said the attacks took place some time before 10;50 pm on Monday.
Supt Mark McEwan said the attacs were clearly racially motivated and designed to intimidate and scare people living within those homes.
“We’re following a number of lines of investigation, including the submission of items seized for forensic examination from those scenes and that work is ongoing at the moment,” he said.
He appealed to any members of the community to come forward with any information they might have.
“We’re working very closely with our partner agencies, such as Belfast City Council, the Housing Executive, the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities and other community groups to support the victims and the wider community, but to support primarily the victims through the investigative process,” he said.
“I believe this is not reflective of the wider area. This is not reflective of east Belfast.”
Justice Minister David Ford condemned the attacks.
“Overnight we have seen faceless people hiding under cover of darkness to carry out cowardly attacks on people and property,” he said.
In a tweet, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he “unreservedly” condemned the racist attacks in east Belfast.
Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland said there was “absolutely no justification” for targeting the homes or property of foreign nationals.
“It is totally unacceptable that anyone should be subject to attack or intimidation because of their race, religion or nationality,” he said.
“Those responsible for last night’s attacks need to seriously consider the impact it has on the image of east Belfast.”
SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell condemned the attacks, describing them as “despicable and cowardly”.
“Belfast cannot be allowed to become the racist capital of the north, especially when so many people from here have been welcomed in so many countries around the world,” said the south Belfast MP.
“These attacks must not be tolerated. People have the right to live in peace, but no one has the right to instil fear and tension in any community.”
The DUP’s Robin Newton said the attacks were “disgraceful”.
“East Belfast is a kind, welcoming place inhabited by kind and welcoming people,” he said.
“It is utterly shameful that the reputation of our community should be tarnished by racist thugs who offer nothing but hatred and bitterness.”