Multi-cultural charity sells south Belfast premises after arson attacks

A multi-cultural charity which has been attacked a number of times in recent years is selling its south Belfast premises due to fears for the wellbeing of volunteers.

The building on Donegall Pass was set on fire twice within the space of 15 months.

Police treated the attacks in January 2021 and April 2022 as hate crimes but no one has ever been arrested or charged in relation to the offences.

The site was used as a food and clothing bank, as well as a community hub.

The local community and people wider afield were appalled at the attacks on the Belfast Multi-cultural Association (BMCA) and the damage also done to cars owned by the volunteers.

They weighed in to support the BMCA and pitched in with a sizable donation totalling more than £70,000 for repairs to the building.

But many of the volunteers have been left scarred by the whole experience and they are now too afraid to return to work there.

Muhammed Atif told UTV: "After considering all the incidents and after considering that nobody has been caught, nobody has been put behind bars, we can't have our volunteers or service users put in the position where they don't feel safe coming to the building.

"The community has been very welcoming and have welcomed us anytime we have walked in," he added.

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International said "unfortunately, it's an all too typical story".

"In 90% of race-hate crime in Northern Ireland nobody is held to account, people get off scot-free.

"The good people of the multi-cultural association have been forced out and they have to pick up the pieces, rebuild elsewhere, but any community that has them will be very fortunate indeed."

In a statement, the PSNI said detectives investigating the arson attacks have exhausted all active lines of inquiry and have renewed their appeal for information adding that any reports of hate crime are taken very seriously. The Belfast multi-cultural association is now looking for new premises and until new owners are found for this building, the doors here will remain firmly shut.

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