Ethnic minorities in the North have been warned they could be attacked by racist and far-right groups.
The PSNI police have said racist crimes were reported in south Belfast alone in the first seven months of 2004. Controversially, their warning of further attacks did not reveal either the nature or source of the threats.
The warnings come against a backdrop of rising racist attacks on immigrant communities, especially in unionist areas of south Belfast where local paramilitaries have been involved.
Many of those incidents involved serious violence. Attacks have also taken place across the North.
A Portuguese family were forced from their Portadown home in recent weeks.
The doors of three flats were smashed in by a gang thought to be linked to the unionist paramilitary UVF or LVF.
The brother-in-law and two sisters of the couple were also forced to move.
Paulo Fialho, whose home was attacked, said the gang would not stop despite the screams of his wife and children.
“Maybe a few guys here don’t like us, maybe because we are Portuguese,” he said.
His friend Toni Antonio, who has also been in the north for 10 months, has not had any problems before.
“I am not angry but a bit sad because we are in 2004, we are in a democracy,” he said.
This week, a prominent DUP councillor from Ballymena, Robin Sterling made openly racist remarks and the party took no action on the matter.
Ppeople who work within ethnic minority communities have accused the PSNI of releasing the minimum of information regarding the source or the seriousness of these threats.
The development was described by South Belfast Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey as “deeply disturbing.”
He said: “It is important that politicians and community leaders reassure those people from ethnic minority communities that they are safe and that they are welcome. Likewise, a message must be sent to those carrying out racist attacks that their behaviour is unacceptable and unwanted.”