On Monday night a group of males decided it would be a good idea to burn down Asta’s Glam Factory on Castlereagh Street in East Belfast. It is not clear if they felt false nails and tanning was a threat to Ulster or as the police suspect, it was a ‘racist hate crime’.
The salon (which only opened last week) was owned by a Lithuanian woman, Asta Samaliute, who as you can imagine was not too happy about finding the business she worked so hard to build burned to the ground. Not only was Asta out of a job but so were the local people she employed.
Police in Belfast have recorded a 43% increase in racist hate crimes in the space of eight months.
In the period to the end of January 2015, 383 racially motivated offences were recorded across the city; in the same period the previous year, 268 offences were recorded.
A third of offences recorded last year in the city were in east Belfast.
In the east of the city, racially motivated offences rose from 74 between 1 May 2013 and 30 January 2014 to 128 in the same eight months in the following year, a 73% increase
In west Belfast, recorded offences rose from 17 to 29, a 70% increase
North Belfast saw an increase from 72 to 101, a 40% rise
In south Belfast, recorded offences rose from 105 to 125, a 19% increase
So far so depressing. BUT what happened next shows a ray of light in an otherwise very depressing story. A fund has been set-up to support Asta. In less than 24 hours over $6,000 has been donated. It is good to see the community rallying round in support. But what of the other hundreds of victims? The African families who had to go emergency accommodation? The Polish families who can’t sleep at night because they are waiting on a petrol bomb coming through the window. It is a bleak situation that is only getting worse and worse…
Also these attacks are killing economic activity in these areas. Already there is rows of boarded up shops or ‘fake shops‘. Why would any business person invest in an area where they are likely to get burned out or preyed on for protection money?