Northern Ireland news

Almost 500 people are seeking asylum in the north

It has been revealed that 500 people are seeking asylum in the North 
Lindsay Fergus, The Detail

ALMOST 500 people from countries across the world – a record high - are currently seeking asylum in the north, according to research by Detail Data.

The fate of the 497 asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision on their future lies with the Home Office.

Detail Data investigated Home Office immigration statistics to discover quarterly figures on asylum, detention and removals in the North.

Their data shows that between April and June this year, 497 people from 37 different countries were seeking asylum here including 154 applications from China and 14 from the war ravaged country of Syria.

There have also been 78 asylum applications from Nigeria, 58 from Somalia and 40 from Sudan.

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The refugees are all living in houses, flats, hostels or B&Bs in Belfast – with the exception of one who is living in accommodation in Co Down. Accommodation is provided on a ‘no choice’ basis under the long-standing dispersal policy.

The statistics made available to The Detail cover only those those asylum seekers who are judged to be ‘destitute,’ meaning that they do not have the ability to meet living expenses for themselves and any dependants within 14 days.

Support is provided under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to destitute asylum seekers until their asylum claim is finally determined. It can be provided as both accommodation and subsistence, or accommodation or subsistence only.

Data on asylum seekers receiving financial support other than Section 95 is not broken down to UK regional level.

The figure of 497 asylum seekers in one quarter is a record high for Northern Ireland, according to statistics that date back to 2004. In the same period in 2004 (April to June) there were just 132 people in receipt of Section 95 assistance.

The Home Office data also showed 212 people were detained at Larne House, the north’s only holding centre for immigrants including asylum seekers between April and June 2015.

However, the combined figures for the north are low by comparison with the rest of the UK and Europe.

Detail Data also requested information on asylum seekers from the Department of Education, Health and Social Care Board, and the Business Services Organisation, a body associated with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

The data revealed that 25 children have been taking into care after arriving in the north unaccompanied between 2011 and August 2015. These children came countries including China, Romania, Somalia and South Korea.

  • 137 children of asylum seekers were educated in Belfast schools in 2014/15, up from 72 in 2012/13.
  • 1,333 asylum seekers were also revealed to have registered with a GP practice in the north between January 2010 and June 2015 – with 147 of them in the first six months of 2015.

All the major Stormont parties have supported efforts to house Syrian refugees with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness expressing hopes that 2,000 refugees could be placed in the north, if Stormont responded appropriately.

Mr McGuinness says between 50 and 100 Syrian refugees are to arrive in the north by Christmas.

But Justin Kouame, chair of the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees & Asylum Seekers (NICRAS), said of the current arrangements: “In reality they do not have the structures to look after 2,000 [Syrian refugees] and there are already asylum seekers here struggling”.

He said better support systems were required to overcome problems including language barriers, poor housing provision and the availability of specialist legal advice.

Read about the difficulties asylum seekers face.

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