'Racist attack risks' at south Belfast school

Thursday 04th June 2015 07:24 EDT

According to the Council for Ethnic Minorities, parents and children attending Fane Street Primary School, in Belfast, could most likely become victims of racial attacks if their classes are moved to another location.

It is said that 64% of the children attending this south Belfast school are from immigrant families, one third of the pupils are muslims and overall come from 22 different countries.

The Education Authority (EA) are looking into ways to coalesce Fane Street Primary School with two others in south Belfast; Blythefield in Sandy Row and Donegall Road Primary Schools.

The EA believe an integration of the schools is necessary as there are about 800 empty places between the three schools.

Regarding the proposed changes, the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) said the merger "would present a high security risk of racist attacks against ethnic minority and Muslim families" if parents have to pass the village area to get to a proposed new school close to or at the Donegall Road or Sandy Row areas.

South Belfast is said to have had the highest number of racist atttacks in Northern Ireland; hence, NICEM head, Patrick Yu expressed his concerns that the Education Authority had not undertaken a risk assessment prior to the proposal of the possible joining of the schools.

Patrick Yu stated, "The ethnic minority and Muslim families would need to walk to the (new) school... down the Donegall Road, through the Village to the new school in the future. This also means they will have a high risk of racist attack and racial harassment on the way to and from (the new proposed) school."

Yu referred to the loyalist protests in 2001 at a Catholic primary school in north Belfast. He said, “We do not want to see another 'Holy Cross' number two to happen in that area."

Furthermore, NICEM elaborated that the basis for its worriment is due to the police figures on racist attacks. The figures show the levels of racist attacks in south Belfast are the highest in Northern Ireland.

Within south Belfast, the Village, Sandy Row and Donegall Road areas have the worst record for racist attacks. Patrick Yu added, “NICEM feels that the best option would be to close Blythefield Primary School and allow pupils to join either of the remaining two schools on Donegall Road and Fane Street."

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