A Belfast church has opened its doors to a number of terrified Romanians who were forced to flee their homes after being targeted by a race hate gang.
Many of the migrant families had to seek refuge after their homes were violently attacked by youths reportedly linked to a militant neo-Nazi organisation.
After a series of racist attacks on their homes, families sought somewhere safe to spend the night in Belfast.
Twenty families slept on the floor of a church hall on Tuesday night after leaving their homes.
The families are still in temporary accommodation, too scared to return to their homes.
But despite the violence they have endured, the families thanked those in Belfast who have helped them.
One Romanian woman said: “Right now I want to thank you very much, for everything you’ve done for us.”
Trish Morgan, the Vicar’s wife at the church said: “Slowly but surely the intimidation escalated. There’s been verbal abuse, there’s been people threatening to set fire to their homes and I think a few bricks have been thrown.”
Members of the mob were seen making Nazi salutes and residents in the area found letters quoting Hitler’s Mein Kampf posted through their doors.
Couaccu Siluis and his relatives were among those who took refuge in City Church, near Queen’s University in South Belfast.
Mr Siluis said: “We are not going back to our house. It is not safe. They made signs like they wanted to cut my brother’s baby’s throat. They said they wanted to kill us. How can people do this to us? We have done nothing wrong.”
Red Cross volunteers have also provided food and bedding for families forced to leave their homes this week.
Many of the migrants were moved to a council leisure centre yesterday and will be offered emergency housing in unused student accommodation.
Police have been criticised for not stepping in sooner to protect the families despite being aware of the mounting intimidation.
Paddy Meehan, who lives in the area, said: “Local residents think these people have to be defended. Sometimes there are about 20 of them gathering outside the properties.
“There is a hard core of maybe six or seven shouting abuse and kicking doors down. These families are terrified, so are all their young children.”
The police are now treating the most recent attack as a ‘hate crime’.