Africans face 'ethnic cleansing' in Northern Ireland

London- UK (PANA) -- Leaders of 2,600 Africans living in Northern Ireland have called on British authorities who govern the province to take action against a wave of assaults and forced evictions facing the minority population.
  According to a report carried Monday by the Daily Telegraph the black population is living under the threat of "ethnic cleansing" by "racist thugs".
The thugs carrying out the attacks belong to loyalist paramilitary groups, which support the British presence in Northern Ireland.
These groups were involved in a bitter civil war with nationalist groups that supported the re-unification of Ireland.
The religious conflict pitted Protestants of British extraction and Irish Catholics.
According to the Daily Telegraph, attacks on minorities have risen by over 900% since the Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998 to end the 30-year conflict.
A Nigerian lecturer at Queen's University in Belfast, the main city in Northern Ireland, Dr, James Uhomoibhi, who has been in the province for 17 years, said he had noticed a marked increase in racial attacks on ethnic minorities since the 1998 agreement, the Telegraph reported.
"The issue of sectarianism has been largely removed and there are some who realise there are more ethnic people here," he said.
"Racism existed before but it's just that the violence of the Troubles [the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland] has gone away.
"People need to be educated to learn to accept that because someone is a different colour it does not make them a threat.
" One African who has suffered at the hands of the loyalists is a South African woman named Tandy.
According to the Telegraph, she did not want her surname publicised.
She said she answered a knock on the door only to be confronted by a group of men who screamed at her: "Get the f*** out of here.
" The woman, who had survived the violence of Soweto, said she fled through the back door, leaving her two children, aged 13 and two, upstairs.
They kept quiet as the thugs proceeded to smash up the family's television, kitchen, fireplace and new electronic games console.
"I'm used to this coming from South Africa," Tandy said.
I grew up with racism but I am fed up with it here.
I wanted to breathe the fresh air here but then I came across racism.
It's a terrible experience," she added.
Tandy, who arrived in Northern Ireland a year ago to study for a degree in psychology, says she plans to leave the province.
The thugs have been threatening estate agents who have rented property to Africans and Chinese.
The Telegraph reported that one agent had been threatened with having his agency destroyed if he continued to rent houses to ethnic minorities.
Unlike other parts of the UK where ethnic minorities are commonplace, the non-white population of Northern Ireland is made of just 0.
25 percent of Chinese and the 2,600 Africans - out of a total population of 1.
7 million, making the white population 99.
15% of this figure.
The sort of intimidation now being visited on ethnic minorities was the hallmark of the bloody sectarian conflict that raged in Northern Ireland.
Now the loyalists have transferred this to ethnic minorities.

12 january 2004 20:48:00

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