Northern Ireland: New Northern Ireland asylum guide delivers facts not myths

A new information guide on refugee issues in Northern Ireland, which aims to deliver the facts - not the myths - about asylum, is launched today (Monday 18 June) in Belfast at the start of Refugee Week.

The new booklet, Forced to Flee: frequently asked questions about refugees and asylum seekers in Northern Ireland, is published by the Refugee Action Group – a coalition of locally-based organisations, of which Amnesty International is a member.

The guide is published against a background of disquiet over the Home Office's new arrangements for the detention and transportation of some people seeking asylum in Northern Ireland.

10,000 copies of the guide will be distributed to journalists, politicians, community activists, teachers, churches and members of the public.

It reveals:

  • There are around 200 asylum applications made per year in Northern Ireland and around 2000 refugees in total
  • China, Iraq, Sierra Leone and Somalia, all with poor human rights records, are among the countries of origin of asylum seekers to Northern Ireland
  • Destitute asylum seekers must survive on £40.22 per week, 30% below the level of basic income support
  • The Home Office is to open a new 'enforcement unit' in Belfast which will likely result in an increased number of asylum seekers being removed from Northern Ireland and detained in Immigration Removal Centres in Scotland and England

An Iranian refugee to Northern Ireland (who will be available for interview by journalists at the launch) tells of his experience in the new guide:

“I did not want to leave my family or my friends, but I had no choice. If I stayed the authorities would have killed me, just like they killed my father. I saw his body and I will never forget how I felt at that moment.

“When I explain why I had to leave, most people are sympathetic, but there are times when people can be rude or nasty if they find out you are a refugee.”

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, and editor of the guide, said:

“The guide highlights the fact that refugees to Northern Ireland face a lot of problems, not least from a Home Office which, all too often, appears to be intent on making life more difficult than it need be. Yet people in Northern Ireland are generally very welcome and supportive, as recently demonstrated by the groundswell of support for Cameroonian asylum seeker Lordorice Jountso and her daughter Imelda, who feature on the front cover of this new guide.”

Buster Cox, Chairperson of the Refugee Action Group, said:

“This booklet should help make Northern Ireland a safer refuge for asylum seekers. It will enable politicians, journalists and the general public to have an accurate picture and an informed debate about the reality of asylum and how we can provide a better welcome than we do now.”

Copies of the booklet will be distributed throughout Northern Ireland, including to all 800 local members of the National Union of Journalists, which has backed the new booklet.

Michael Fisher, member of the NUJ National Executive Council, said:

“This publication is a great resource for journalists because it gives us all the information we need at our fingertips. As journalists, we have a responsibility to fairly and accurately report the facts surrounding refugees and asylum seekers so we can inform the public debate.”

Note: The Refugee Action Group is very grateful to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund who have supported this publication.

  • Download the guide Forced to Flee (PDF)
  • Find out more about campaign for refugees in Northern Ireland /li>

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