Belfast Telegraph

Parties back refugee settlement as Northern Ireland gives home to 335 people

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: Declan Roughan
DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: Declan Roughan

By Staff Reporter

Refugees and asylum seekers have been promised by political leaders here that they will create "a welcoming, safe and secure environment for those fleeing persecution".

The joint statement from all the main parties came as the Home Office announced that it will be extending its Refugee Resettlement scheme.

According to Citizens UK, Belfast has resettled 335 people under the scheme, making it the eighth most welcoming area in the UK for refugees.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area is 13th with 204 refugees; Antrim and Newtownabbey is 15th with 183, and Lisburn and Castlereagh is 17th with 179.

A programme that started in 2015 focused on Syrians, but the Government will now take refugees from beyond the Middle East and North Africa, and provide emergency resettlement where lives are at risk.

At least 5,000 more refugees will be resettled in the UK under a renewed initiative.

The Government said that although it had agreed to welcome between 5,000 and 6,000 refugees in 2020-21, the actual number will depend on factors including the amount of suitable accommodation provided by councils.

In a rare joint statement, Northern Ireland's political leaders urged the public to join them in acknowledging and celebrating Refugee Week 2019, which starts on Friday.

They stated: "We confirm our shared belief in the principles of global refugee protection and relevant international legal standards, including the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

"We recognise the vital contribution that refugees continue to make to our society.

"We are determined to create a welcoming, safe and secure environment for those fleeing persecution.

"We pledge to do all that we can to offer practical support and meaningful assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers, in ways that reflect our collective commitment to the common good and our common humanity."

The statement is co-signed by DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA; Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill; Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann; SDLP leader Colum Eastwood; Alliance leader Naomi Long; Green Party leader Clare Bailey, and Independent MLA Claire Sugden.

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