Racists have erected a Ku Klux Klan flag in an area of Belfast which has been at the centre of a recent surge in racist attacks in the city.
East Belfast MP Naomi Long has condemned those who put up the symbol of the KKK movement, accusing them of heightening racist tensions in her constituency.
There has been a spike in racist attacks in Belfast, with the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirming its officers are investigating up to three racist incidents every day. A large proportion of racist attacks and intimidation is taking place in the loyalist east.
The Alliance party MP said the appearance of a KKK flag off Island Street in the east of the city gives “an even more sinister edge” to xenophobic attacks in the area.
Long said: “Yet again we see those who wish to bully anyone different from them use flags and emblems to assert dominance and control over a community. To put up these flags in broad daylight shows just how brazen the culprits are.
“To use flags hailing a hate group such as the KKK is sickening and lends a further menacing element to recent events. It is essential that every right-thinking person unites against those who engage in racist, bigoted or otherwise intolerant behaviour and does so with consistency.”
The annual Human Rights and Racial Equality Benchmarking Report for Northern Ireland, released last month, points out that there were 982 racist incidents in 2013-14 while there were 750 such incidents the previous year.
It noted that over the last five years 75% of all complaints to the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland about harassment in offices, shops or factories are related to racial abuse and intimidation.
Over the last year Northern Ireland has become one of the worst hot spots for racist crimes and race-hate-linked incidents, but the authors of the report say the region is home to only 1% of all the non-EU/European economic area migrants who have come into the UK.
[Image via Flickr user Martin, Creative Commons licensed]