The latest spate of racist attacks on over 100 Romanian people in Northern Ireland is part of a growing trend of discrimination against Roma people across Europe, Amnesty International has said.
Around 20 families of Roma people from Romania were forced to flee their homes in Belfast after coming under sustained attack for a number of nights. A crowd is reported to have gathered outside their homes shouting racist slogans, smashing windows and kicking in doors.
The Roma initially sought refuge in the City Church in South Belfast on Tuesday. They have subsequently been transferred by Northern Ireland authorities to temporary accommodation in a leisure centre elsewhere in the city.
Amnesty International has investigated and responded to similar attacks on the Roma in Europe, including in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia, in the past year.
Amnesty International has urged the authorities in Northern Ireland to urgently investigate the series of attacks and take measures to protect the Roma from any future attacks.
"Racist attacks are unacceptable and illegal. The Roma have every right to reside in Belfast and be treated with respect and dignity as any other citizen of the city," said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Since the Roma families fled their homes, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has assisted local civil society and social service agencies in relocating the Romanians to temporary shelter.
Amnesty International has called on the PSNI to ensure that thorough, independent and impartial investigations are conducted into each attack on Roma persons. Those affected by the attacks should be given adequate access to reparations, and to seek justice through the courts.
"The Northern Ireland authorities have an obligation to ensure that the Roma and Romanian population in Belfast are given the protection they require in order to enjoy a safe and durable future there," Nicola Duckworth said.
The Roma suffer massive discrimination throughout Europe. Roma are often victims of forced evictions, racist attacks and police ill-treatment, and are denied their rights to housing, employment, healthcare and education.