Amnesty – Levels of racism ‘should shock us to our core’

Patrick Corrigan
Patrick Corrigan

Northern Ireland has a huge problem with racism, Amnesty International said today, following the publication of new figures showing high levels of intolerance towards people from minority ethnic communities.

Amnesty is calling for a more robust government response to tackling racial prejudice in Northern Ireland, including: an independent review of the region’s equality and hate crime laws; the collection of detailed data on hate crime and public perceptions regarding hate crime (comparable with other parts of the UK); and for race equality legislation to be strengthened to bring it into line with the UK government’s international obligations relating to the promotion of human rights for racial minorities and other groups.

Figures from the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, published today, show that more than half of people surveyed would not willingly accept a Muslim (52 per cent) or an Irish Traveller (56 per cent) as a relative by way of marrying a close member of their family. Other statistics reveal that:

  • 47 per cent of people would not willingly accept a Muslim as a close friend;
  • 25 per cent of people would not willingly accept someone from an ethnic minority as a colleague at work;
  • 47 per cent of people think there is more racial prejudice in Northern Ireland now than there was 5 years ago; only 13% of people believe racial prejudice has decreased over the period.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: “These shocking figures show that Northern Ireland has a huge problem with racism. The levels of racial prejudice in our midst should serve as a wake-up call to politicians and officials charged with making Northern Ireland a better place to live for everyone.”

Mr Corrigan added: “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 to tackle racial prejudice. That must include bringing our race equality laws into line with the rest of the UK, where Northern Ireland has fallen behind, and an improvement on prosecution and conviction rates for those responsible for race hate crimes.”

The survey did, however, show strong levels of support amongst the Northern Ireland public for providing protection to refugees: 64 per cent of people think it is our duty to provide protection to refugees who are escaping persecution in their home country, while 57 per cent agree and only 17 per cent disagreed that people from Syria should be allowed to come to Northern Ireland.