Thirty east Europeans forced to share just one house in Northern Ireland
Between 20 and 30 people from Romania and Bulgaria are living in a single house in some areas of Northern Ireland, an Assembly committee examining racial equality has been told.
During the session, DUP MLA George Robinson said he wondered how some of the impoverished communities, which are scattered across the province, were able to survive at all.
His comments came after senior civil servant Ken Fraser told the committee: "People come here and try to make their way. Some have access to more public funds than others.
"Until January 1, for example, citizens of the A2 nations – Romania and Bulgaria – were denied access to the labour market under transitional arrangements put in place by the Home Office.
"Many live with far too many to a house. One hears about 20 and 30 people to a house.
"Many survive on a pittance from car washes. There are those who beg, and we have all seen that.
"You see the circumstances in which they live and you think, 'If that is what they prefer, goodness only knows how horrible life is where they come from'.
"This is viewed as a reasonably pleasant place for them to be."
Mr Fraser was taken to task, however, after claiming most Chinese people in Northern Ireland work in catering as the committee which monitors the First Minister and Deputy First Minister examined the effectiveness of the Executive's racial equality strategy.
He said: "The difficulties are that Chinese people tend to find themselves in the food industry, for instance. People find it very difficult to break out of what, traditionally, they have always done."
The DUP's Jimmy Spratt said he found the comment disparaging and warned that it would be resented by those in the Chinese community.
"We have a very well-established Chinese community, many members of which have businesses that have been in existence for nearly 30 years," he said.
"That community is well established among the local population, particularly in the south Belfast area.
"Members of that community would resent that remark from you because they see themselves as part and parcel of the community in Northern Ireland," he added.