UK/Northern Ireland: Attacks against Roma people are unacceptable and illegal

The latest attacks on Roma people in Northern Ireland are part of a trend of growing abuses against the Roma across Europe, Amnesty International said today. The organization urges the authorities there to investigate urgently the series of racist attacks which forced over 100 Roma people from Romania to flee their homes in Belfast and to protect them from 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.

“Roma individuals in Romania are exposed to various forms of discrimination and abuse by state and individuals or groups.”

According to news reports, attacks against Roma people from Romania have increased in recent months – some of them have been attacked verbally and physically, bricks have been thrown through their windows. An anti-racist rally in the city on 15 June was attacked by youths chanting neo-Nazi slogans. On the evening of 16 June, the Roma initially sought refuge in the City Church in the area of South Belfast, and have subsequently been transferred by Northern Ireland authorities to temporary accommodation in a leisure centre elsewhere in Belfast.

“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.

Amnesty International welcomes the immediate support extended to the Roma families by local civil society groups, and notes that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assisted local civil society and social service agencies in relocating the Romanians to a temporary shelter.

Amnesty International calls on the PSNI to ensure that thorough, independent and impartial investigations are conducted into each attack on Roma persons and property carried out by non-state actors. Those affected by the attacks should be given adequate access to reparations, and to seek justice through the courts.

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. 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.