Northern Ireland launches public consultation on refugee integration
A public consultation is to be launched in Northern Ireland as part of a strategy to support the integration of refugees here.
The 12-week consultation will be part of a Refugee Integration Strategy project, aimed at supporting those who come to live here after fleeing war and other humanitarian disasters.
The development of the strategy is part of the executive’s broader strategy for racial equality 2015-2025.
It comes as Northern Ireland plans to resettle around 840 people from Afghanistan who are fleeing the Taliban, with 360 initially expected to arrive in the program’s first year.
The ministers said the draft strategy aims to define how the executive “will take action to support refugees and asylum seekers to ensure that they are treated fairly, do not suffer injustice, can live here as valued members of our community and have every chance to realize their full potential ”.
Prime Minister Paul Givan said: “Over the past few years, we have all observed the devastating impact of the various humanitarian crises unfolding around the world and the plight of people displaced from their homes.
“We really want Northern Ireland to be a welcoming society and a place where refugees can build new lives and realize their full potential.
“During the crisis in Syria, we did not fail to resettle over 1,800 people – and we will not fail to support those fleeing persecution in Afghanistan.
“We recognize, however, that we need to build on our work to date and develop a coordinated government-wide approach to support all who arrive here.
“So I am delighted that we are now launching a consultation on the draft Refugee Integration Strategy and I encourage everyone to get involved and have their say.
Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill added: “It is heartbreaking that so many people are forced to flee their homes to escape conflict and persecution in various parts of the world.
“We see, through our work on the Vulnerable People’s Resettlement Program (VPRS), what can be achieved when ministries and our voluntary sector partners come together.
“The refugees and asylum seekers who arrive here bring increased diversity, skills and culture to our communities. By helping them overcome some of the initial hurdles and integrate successfully, we make it a more vibrant and diverse society that we all benefit from.
The draft strategy aims to “provide support to both asylum seekers and refugees and identify priority actions to facilitate successful integration”.
The consultation can be found at https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/ or on the website of the Executive Office at www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/consultations/draft-refugee-integration-strategy.