Antrim: Eight families forced out of homes by racist attacks (2024)

Antrim: Eight families forced out of homes by racist attacks (1)

Ita Dungan


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Warning: This story contains information which some readers may find offensive

An African woman has said her family is one of eight to have moved out of their Antrim homes in the past week following a spate of racist attacks.

Two of the families told BBC News NI of their fears after anti-immigration posters were erected in the Ballycraigy estate and houses were spray painted with a black X.

One couple and their two children, who lived in the area for more than a year, said they feared they would be killed after attacks on their home escalated in the last six weeks.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said a team of detectives are leading on a "robust investigation" following a "spate of hate crime incidents in the area over the last few weeks".

Miriam, not her real name, rented a home from a private landlord when she moved to Northern Ireland 20 months ago to work in the health service.

Her husband, Andrew, not his real name, and their two children joined her six months later.

Anti-immigrant posters

Miriam and Andrew say the intimidation began at the end of May when anti-immigrant posters were erected in the area.

From that time on, they believe the targeting of their family’s home and property intensified.

The posters, which were taped to lamp posts, addressed landlords, housing associations, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

They read: "We have had enough of undesirables and immigrants being placed in our community. The time has come for locals only”.

The posters also warned that "action will be taken".

She thought maybe a meeting would be organised for landlords in the area.

But she said she now understands it was directed at newcomers, like her family.

Two weeks later, on 6 June, a large black X was spray-painted on their living room window.

On 26 June, a printed poster was taped to the window.

It read: “It is not racist to look after your own.” There was a Northern Ireland flag printed below the message.

On 2 July, the windows of their car were smashed.

The couple said they have now moved out and will not be returning to the area.

“Nobody told us this was a no-go area for foreigners, that this place has been known for years that foreigners are not welcome," said Miriam.

'My children are not safe'

The couple said over the last six weeks, they felt like “prisoners in their own home”.

Andrew said his children had to be accompanied to the shops.

“How can this happen in a democratic society?"

Miriam says the situation is affecting every part of her life.

“I’m supposed to report to work in this situation," she said.

"My family is not safe. My children are not safe.

"I am afraid to see my children walking outside. I don’t know what is the next step.

“What crime have you committed? I am working, paying taxes. After all that, they come to attack me in the night.

“What offence have I committed to deserve all this?”

'We couldn't sleep another night'

Last weekend, a bungalow specially designed for a nine-year-old disabled boy was one of two new-build properties damaged in what police said was a "sectarian-motivated hate crime".

And BBC News NI has learned that other African families in the area have had their properties attacked.

Caroline, also not her real name, her husband and two children moved to Northern Ireland from Africa two years ago.

She first noticed anti-immigration posters six weeks ago.

“My eldest came to me and said: ‘Mummy, do you know what’s happening? I saw posters there saying: "No immigrants'. Do they mean us?’,” she added.

Although she is trying to protect her children, Caroline said they understand what is happening.

Caroline, who is a healthcare worker, said that when she woke on Monday, her house, and four others on the street, were spray-painted with a black X.

This prompted her to start packing up her belongings.

“I didn’t even have anywhere to go,” she said.

After their neighbour’s car was smashed, the family decided to vacate their property.

Caroline said it was “quite a hard decision” to make, but the family “just couldn’t sleep another night in that house".

“We’re too scared to be here,” she added.

'Very difficult conversations'

Caroline is now having “very difficult” conversations with her children, who she said are “traumatised”.

“[I’m] trying to make them think that they are not being targeted,” she explained, but is also having to “hold” herself so as not to show fear or anxiety.

“They’ve been asking me: 'When are we moving out?’ I don’t have any answer,” she said.

Caroline now collects the children as they return from school and instructs them to stay indoors.

“I’m scared from the bus stop to home what’s going to happen,” she explained

Her family in Africa are also “scared of me being in Northern Ireland”, she added.

“Should I stay, should I not stay?”

Slept outside a police station

Another woman, Faith, also not her real name, said she woke up to “find one of our cars crushed; the front windows and the back of the car”.

Her house was also marked with a black X.

“It’s just been so terrible, we’ve just been so terrified,” she told BBC News NI.

Faith and her family had lived in their Craighill property for three years “and never had any issues with anybody”, she said.

After the attack, Faith and her family slept in their car outside of a local police station, as she felt it was the safest option.

Her young son “has not slept” since 26 June, she added, “he’s panicking through the whole night”.

The family are now living in temporary accommodation but have yet to retrieve their belongings.

“I only took a change of clothes for the night,” she explained.

Faith said she is now too afraid to return to her previous home, and is “worried about her future” in Northern Ireland.

“I’m not feeling comfortable to be here, I’m not feeling safe.”

'Despicable' behaviour

Meanwhile, the PSNI said they are "keeping an open mind" regarding any links to organised criminality, and that they have increased “visibility across the Antrim area”.

They said a “local neighbourhood policing team has been undertaking enquiries, engaging with the local community to offer advice, guidance, and overall reassurance that we are here to help".

"Tackling hate crime is a priority for us and we have a zero tolerance approach with anyone who seeks to engage in racist or sectarian behaviour," Antrim and Newtownabbey district commander Supt Fox said.

"This behaviour is despicable and will not be tolerated on any level."

Members of the public are encouraged to speak to the PSNI, as "this is not a matter for police alone", Supt Fox added.

"Remember the victim won't necessarily be the first to make a report to police, they may need your assistance to speak up for them, so please do get in touch with us."

Related Topics

  • Antrim
  • Racism
  • Social housing
Antrim: Eight families forced out of homes by racist attacks (2024)


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