Northern Ireland

Hundreds at Belfast rally to support Syrian refugees

Counter protest Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption About 300 people attended a counter protest to show their support for the refugees.

Several hundred people have turned out in Belfast to support the arrival of Syrian refugees.

The first group of 51 refugees are expected to be resettled in Northern Ireland in the next fortnight.

The rally had been organised in opposition to an anti-refugee demonstration by the campaign group, the Protestant Coalition.

Both demonstrations took place outside Belfast City Hall.

About 40 people protested against the arrival of the refugees while about 300 were there to show their support for the refugees.

Willie Frazer, a member of the Protestant Coalition, said: "The last thing we need is to bring people into this country who do not integrate into our community, who do not believe in Christianity."

Image caption About 40 people protested against the arrival of the refugees.

Dr Raied Al-Wazzana, a former spokesperson for the Belfast Islamic Centre, praised those who attended the counter rally and said those protesting against the refugees "did not represent the Protestant community".

The Department of Social Development has said Syrian refugees who arrive in Northern Ireland under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme will be entitled to the same benefits as UK citizens.