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11 March 2004 Edition

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West Belfast gives racism the red card

Members of the ethnic minority community received a warm welcome in West Belfast during a special luncheon held at the Cultúrlann this past week.

"It doesn't matter if you arrived here 600 years ago or one year ago — you are welcome," Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams told a packed room on Thursday 4 March.

The West Belfast MP said the "welcome meeting" sent out a strong message that the people of West Belfast were opposed to racism.

"Filipino, Indian, Pakistani, Korean, Palestinian, Chinese, Basque, African and other nationalities are not simply guests of the community but part of it," said Adams, adding that after the recent attacks against ethnic minority communities throughout the city, it was even more important to take a stand against racism.

"These people are our neighbours, our doctors, our nurses. They look after us," said Adams. "Under the skin we are all the same. We are sending a message — and it is that those who seek to divide us are not going to succeed."

The special event — the first in the inaugural Féile an Earraigh (spring festival) —drew a large audience from within the city's ethnic minority communities. The welcome was organised by Féile an Phobail, in conjunction with the Falls Women's Centre and the Beechmount Community Project.

The morning's festivities were also supported by UNISON — the health workers' union — and the Royal Hospitals.

As local musicians played traditional Irish music, Filipino and Irish food was served up (alongide vegetarian options) to an enthusiastic and cheerful crowd. Outside, a fleet of black taxis stood ready to transport dozens of people from the ethnic minority community on a one-hour guided tour of the West Belfast area.

Adams told those assembled that West Belfast was the safest part of the city for ethnic minorities. He also pointed out that most people from ethnic minorities had arrived in the Six Counties via Britain.

"You maybe didn't realise it," he said, "but this is not the United Kingdom. This is Ireland. This is the part of Ireland that happens to be under British rule at this moment in time. The reason why people in West Belfast understand the people of ethnic minorities who come here, is that racism is the second cousin of sectarianism."

The Sinn Féin President said the current policies of both governments with respect to immigrants and asylum seekers was "quite disgusting".

"To have people imprisoned long-term and even short-term is reprehensible," said Adams. "The people who come here want a life. They want to have a better chance in life than they have in their home place."

Leaflets incite racial attacks on Chinese community

The PSNI has confirmed they are investigating complaints after racist leaflets inciting attacks against the Chinese community were distributed in South Belfast.

It is understood that the leaflets were delivered to homes in the Donegall Pass area earlier this week.

Entitled 'Yellow Invasion', the leaflets ironically claim that unionists in Donegall Pass are under threat from the Chinese community and warn that "the time has come to fight back".

The threats follow a series of violent orchestrated attacks against Chinese and Indian families in the Donegall Road area over recent months. The unsigned leaflets claim that Protestants are becoming a "minority" in the Donegall Pass area, and accuse ethnic families of turning the neighbourhood into "Chinatown".

Patrick Yu, of the Council for Ethnic Minorities confirmed that the organisation had asked the PSNI to investigate. Yu said the leaflets were "alarming and frightening" for the Chinese community.

Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey described the threats as "reprehensible" and called on local people and community leaders 'to make their voices heard and speak against those who would incite racial hatred within the areas in which they live".

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