Nigerian Man Says Protest Forced Him Out of Home in Ireland: ‘The Safety of My Son Comes First’
For the Nigerian family they targeted, their signs were a harsh reminder of racism’s existence.
Michael Abiona, a Nigerian man who lived in a government-owned home with his young son, said he was forced to leave the home in Belfast, Ireland, after protestors showed up at his doorstep Tuesday.
The Guardian reported that the protestors were holding signs that read “Houses 4 Local People” and “We Need Homes 2.”
Abiona told The Guardian that the protest was enough for him to question whether his son would be safe in such an environment.
“I am just worried about the atmosphere after this latest incident,” he told The Guardian. “The people protesting told me it was nothing to do with racism. But I asked them why, if they have grievance about housing in the area, are they picking on me?”
One of the protestors said the message was not intended to be racist and that the community is very mixed.
“We’re actually horrified we’re being called racist, because if you come up into our community at 3 p.m. and see the children getting out of school and the people, this is a mixed community,” one local resident told the BBC.
While the protestors insisted they were not being racist, Abiona referred to the incident as “indirect” racism.
“It might be indirect racism at best, but it was very much direct intimidation,” Abiona added. “I tried to tell them that I am not the one who judges who gets a house and who does not. Actually, they knew nothing about or the fact that I have lived in Belfast for four years and the UK for eight.”
Abiona also said that the protest served as a troubling flashback to another racially charged incident that happened in the same area.
“This also took place in east Belfast and it involved teenage boys throwing stones and bottles at me as I passed by in the street,” he said. “They then chased me down the street carrying iron rods and threatened me.”
Liam Kinney of the Housing Executive said he believes race was definitely a factor and that racist incidents have been plaguing east Belfast lately.
“We have probably over 10 cases now, particularly in south and east Belfast, where people have been prohibited moving into properties that were entitled to those properties,” Kinney said.
According to a report by the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, there have been roughly three race-hate incidents reported every day since the start of 2014.
As for Abiona’s future, he says he wants to stay in the area but is too fearful of what that may mean for his son’s safety.
“The safety of my son comes first,” he said. “His mother told me she would not allow him to come and visit me there. My son comes first, so I’m not going to go back to the premises.”