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Volunteers help Romanians following Belfast racist attacks

17 June 2009

ER volunteers in action at nightLayton Thompson

The British Red Cross is supporting a group of more than 100 Romanian people who have been evacuated from their homes in Belfast following a spate of racist attacks.

Since 11 June, there has been a series of racist incidents and attacks on the homes of Romanian families in the south Belfast area. This tense situation came to a head on Tuesday evening (16 June), when more than 100 Romanian residents fled their homes and were taken to a church hall where they spent the night.

A team of Red Cross volunteers was immediately called out and stayed until the early hours providing food, drinks and warm clothing to the evacuated residents. They were also on hand to provide emotional support to the shocked families, several of whom had been terrorised and had their homes vandalised in the past week. The group included pregnant women, young children and one five-day-old girl.

Very frightened

Another team of volunteers arrived early the next morning to accompany the Romanian families as they were moved to the Ozone Leisure Centre in south Belfast. The Red Cross has been working alongside the Salvation Army and ethnic minority support groups.

John Lyttle, volunteering advisor, said: “Our volunteers responded very quickly and brought along vital supplies – and, just as importantly, a bit of human kindness and support – to these unfortunate and victimised residents."

Community support

He added: “Obviously, the Red Cross condemns outright any form of discrimination. It’s also worth remembering that there’s been a marvellous groundswell of support here from the wider community that, for me, has completely over-shadowed the shameful behaviour of an unrepresentative minority.”

Margaret Ritchie, social development minister, has stated that those who fled their homes will be temporarily re-housed in the city.

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