Posted on June 18, 2018

Amnesty International Says Northern Ireland Has a Huge Racism Problem

Shauna Corr, Belfast Live, June 17, 2018

Racism is a “huge problem” in Northern Ireland, Amnesty International has said.

The human rights charity has called on the government to act following the results of a new Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.

It comes just six months after PSNI statistics revealed how almost three people from ethnic minorities are attacked in some way, every day.

More than half of those surveyed admitted they would have a problem with a Muslim or Irish traveller marrying into their family — and a quarter would not willingly accept an ethnic minority co-worker.

While 47% said they think there is more racial prejudice than five years ago.

“This scale of racial prejudice in 2018 should shock us to our core,” said Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director for Amnesty International.

“Politicians and officials need to wake up to this prejudice, which makes Northern Ireland a toxic place to live for too many people from minority ethnic and religious communities.

“We need a much more ambitious and joined-up strategy that must include bringing our race equality laws into line with the rest of the UK.

“Northern Ireland has fallen behind, and an improvement on prosecution and conviction rates for those responsible for race hate crimes.”

More than a thousand (1,063) racist incidents were reported to the PSNI from July 2016 to June 2017, but there was no prosecution in 83% of them.

Racist crimes are now more common in Northern Ireland than sectarian attacks, with 938 traditional hate incidents reported over the same period.

But it is not all bad news.

Despite the worrying findings, the survey showed strong levels of support for refugees.

Of those quizzed, 64% of people think it is our duty to protect people escaping abuse in their home country.

And only 17% thought Syrian people should be allowed into Northern Ireland, while 57% said they should.

Mr Corrigan added: “There is strong support for providing asylum to those feeling war and persecution, whether in Syria or elsewhere.

“That is a very welcome recognition of our international human rights responsibilities and an indication most people here have empathy and compassion for refugees.

“The government must build on this sentiment to create a truly welcoming Northern Ireland for all.”

His organisation is now calling for NI’s race equality legislation to be brought into line with the rest of the UK and for the Department for Justice to commission an independent review of hate crime legislation, with a view to improving current laws.

A Department of Justice Official said: “A commitment to review hate crime legislation is included in the draft Programme for Government.

“The Department of Justice is currently engaged in a scoping exercise to inform any future legislative review.”

The stats reveal:

56% would not willingly accept an Irish traveller marrying into their family

52% would not willingly accept a Muslim marrying into their family

47% of people would not willingly accept a Muslim as a close friend

25% of people would not willingly accept someone from an ethnic minority as a colleague at work;

47% of people think there is more racial prejudice in Northern Ireland now than there was 5 years ago

13% of people believe racial prejudice has decreased over the period