Nightmare experiences of Indian immigrants in Belfast

Kunjamon Iochen Kunjamon Iochen had to take sleeping tablets as a result of the attacks

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Kunjamon Iochen arrived in Belfast eight years ago from the Indian state of Kerala with his wife and two sons.

He works in maintenance and his wife is a nurse.

They purchased a house and settled down to what they thought was going to be an idyllic life, but just weeks later their nightmare began.

"Every time we stepped out of the house we were racially abused, they would throw bricks at the house, scratch the car and then one time someone fired a pellet through the front window," he said.

"The police said it was just anti-social behaviour, but it was racist, we were the only non-white family in the street and my house and my family was the only one that was being targeted so how can this be anti-social."

Kunjamon's youngest son John said the attacks lasted five long years.

"My parents worked nights and were worried about leaving us at home in case someone came in and hurt us, my father had to take tablets because he could not sleep," he said.

"Eventually the police told us it would be best if we moved out of the area, so we fled.

"We still own that house and are paying a mortgage on it but can't sell it, we're renting our current property and it's very hard to manage, my dad regrets the day he brought us to Belfast."

Indians first moved into the city in the 1960s and opened businesses creating employment.

But Kunjamon is from a new and fast growing community from south India who have come quickly in large numbers, they are Catholics and speak a different language so they don't have too much in common with the established Indian community.

The Indian community say that the number of racist attacks in Belfast is on the increase and they are afraid it will only be a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or even killed.

The Kerala Association of Belfast said the violence and destruction of property seems to be getting more and more serious day by day and they are a community now living in fear.

Santosh Chowdhury Santosh Chowdhury was punched and kicked in the face by thugs

Nabeela Yasin-Iannelli, who is an ethnic minority development worker in the city, said: "This community has been hit hard and is continuing to suffer; many live close together and have come quickly in large numbers so they're seen as an easy target."

Santosh Chowdhury has lived in Belfast for six years.

He was coming home from the local Sikh temple one night when he was attacked by a group of teenage thugs.

"They approached me and started calling me racist names and then one of them pulled out a knife and I fell backwards, they then punched and kicked me in the face and the legs," he said.

"I am so scared now, very scared of going out of the house at night, I don't feel safe anymore."

Ashok Sharma from the Indian community centre in Belfast said they know of many instances where people are being attacked but many choose not to report them to the police.

"We are urging people to come forward but they are afraid and think it's best to keep quiet and get on with things, we've tried to hold meetings and find a way forward but it's very difficult," he said.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said their statistics show a decline in hate crimes in recent years, but they are unsure of how bad the problem of under-reporting of these attacks is.

Chief Inspector Andrew Freeburn Chief Inspector Andrew Freeburn urged victims of racism to report incidents to the police

Chief Inspector Andrew Freeburn is area commander for north Belfast.

"We certainly are not aware of a major problem, but what I would say is there may be under reporting of incidents because we only know what people tell us," he said.

"We need to know if there's a problem so that I can ensure there is additional policing where it needs to go, you might not want to come to a police station or have a police car come to your house, but there are so many ways we can make contact and help."

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