Northern Ireland news

Politicians sign Amnesty petition as Stormont urged to 'defend' asylum seekers at Carrickfergus hotel

Amnesty has launched a petition urging Stormont to defend the rights of asylum seekers staying at a hotel in Carrickfergus. Picture by Mal McCann

AMNESTY International has called on all political parties to condemn comments made against a group of asylum seekers in Carrickfergus.

It launched an online petition yesterday following complaints by a DUP councillor that a group of around 30 asylum seekers had been housed in the Loughshore Hotel in the Co Antrim town.

The petition had been signed last night by Alliance leader Naomi Long; SDLP MP Claire Hanna; Green Party leader Clare Bailey and People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll as well as a number of councillors.

Other signatories included groups such as the Law Centre NI, Harbour Faith Community Carrickfergus and Women's Aid Federation NI.

The DUP, which has been urged to censure Marc Collins about his remarks, has so far remained silent.

The Mid and East Antrim councillor caused outrage after querying why the asylum seekers were being temporarily housed in Carrickfergus, if they had received Covid vaccinations, and why "working class families who are struggling to stay above the breadline" could not be given free food and drink.

"I can already see the claims of racism that are going to come my way but that's not what this is about at all," he said.

The asylum seekers are expected to stay at the hotel for several months.

Hundreds have reacted to his Facebook post both in support of the comments and opposed.

Amnesty called on political leaders and particularly the First Minister and deputy First Minister speak out.

"Silence is not an option when leadership is needed," the group said.

Amnesty also called on police to "ensure that the safety of asylum-seekers temporarily resident in Carrickfergus to go about their lives without fear of harassment or intimidation".

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