Recent PSNI statistics have shown a 31% increase in racist incidents over the past year. In May and June there has been a further spate of high profile, sustained attacks on migrant workers.
Attacks on homes of Polish workers in East Belfast with “locals only” daubed on houses, the throwing of faeces in the face of a Roma man cycling on the Newtownards Road and a particularly disgusting attack on two Pakistani men in North Belfast which saw one man hospitalised have been featured in the media. Anna Lo, the South Belfast Alliance Party MLA has been subjected to a high level campaign of racist abuse that has forced her to consider whether to continue living in Northern Ireland and retire from politics.
The consistent nature of some of these attacks and the impunity the attackers have shown demonstrates this is part of a campaign of racists determined to scapegoat migrant workers. In certain areas, these attacks are being carried out by a section of the UVF seeking to expand it’s control. However it would be inaccurate and misleading to claim these attacks are only happening in Protestant areas. A Pakistani family was forced out of the New Lodge in North Belfast in the recent past. The reality is these attacks are not supported by the vast majority of the local community. In the absence of a working class political alternative, the constant media promotion of anti-immigrant forces like UKIP, combined with mass unemployment, a housing crisis and austerity from Westminster and Stormont is responsible for an anti-immigrant sentiment in society, but the majority of people are opposed to racist attacks.
Racist attacks must be resisted
After a limited call on Facebook, a protest of over 4,000 people turned out at Belfast City Hall on Saturday 31st May. These and the trade union organised protests coupled with local meetings on the issue can serve to counter-act racist attacks. However when there is a concerted campaign to force migrant workers out, they must be confronted with mass action in local communities.
Linking the issues of opposing racist attacks to fighting against the social and economic problems was behind our campaign in 2009 to stop attacks on Roma families on the Lisburn Rd. Our slogan of “Jobs & homes NOT racist attacks” coupled with the physical defence of homes under attack, we were able to isolate and challenge the racist thugs carrying out the attacks. The ongoing attacks today are of a more serious and sinister nature but where possible similar tactics will have to be employed. The Socialist Party is committed to assisting the development of anti-racist defence committees to defend all workers from attack.