Belfast: Romanians shelter in church after racist attacks


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More than 110 Romanian people spent the night in a church in Belfast, after their homes were attacked by crowds of youths throwing bottles and making Nazi salutes.

Around 20 families were helped by police to evacuate their homes in the Lisburn Road area of south Belfast and seek safety on last night.

Police. church and community leaders condemned racism in the area which culminated in an attack on a rally in support of the east European migrants on Monday night.

Pastor Malcolm Morgan from the City Church said: "We got a phone call last night from one of our ladies in our church who works for race relations saying that a situation had been brewing in an area of Belfast.

"There are churches doing an awful lot of work all over the UK and this is just the part we played and we were able to stand in the gap. I think it's vital that churches get involved."

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who has met with the families, said the attacks were a "totally shameful episode". The attacks were also condemned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said he hoped the authorities would take all action necessary to protect the families.

The police yesterday met Belfast City Council and social services to discuss how best to care for those affected by the attacks.

Most of the Romanian families, including one with a five-day-old girl, were taken to the Ozone Leisure Centre in south Belfast, where they spent the rest of the day. They say they do not want to return to their Belfast homes.