Researchers from Queen’s University have launched findings from a research study examining the everyday life experiences of asylum seekers and refugees in Northern Ireland.
The research report, which was launched at an event yesterday (Thursday 7 December), was carried out by researchers from the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s for The Executive Office (TEO), with the aim of supporting the development of a refugee integration strategy.
Northern Ireland is a relatively new host to asylum seekers and refugees, and currently does not have a refugee integration strategy in place.
Dr Fiona Murphy, Project Lead and Research Fellow at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The research focuses on asylum seekers and refugees, and hopes to support better integration for newcomers into society. This study found that a refugee integration strategy is urgently needed in order to improve pathways to integration into Northern Ireland’s society.
“A number of issues that are highly complex due to Northern Ireland’s unique historical and cultural experiences as a society were identified in the research, as well as issues such as housing, legal support and lack of opportunities for asylum seekers and refugees in society.
“How we address the issue of asylum seekers and refugees living in our society is now imperative given the refugee crisis in Europe.”
The study also found that Northern Ireland would benefit from one overarching organisation like a refugee council to support the integration of asylum seekers and refugees into society.
Dr Ulrike M. Vieten, Research Fellow at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast, commented: “We found that focusing on better services and supports for asylum seekers and refugees, Northern Ireland’s society as a whole should benefit.
“There are a number of examples in our report which highlight this-one example being at present in Northern Ireland there is poor support for those refugees and asylum seekers who have survived trauma or torture.”
A participant who took part in the research study, Makhosi Sigabade from Zimbabwe, moved to Northern Ireland in 2015. Makhosi, said: “I came to Northern Ireland from Zimbabwe as an asylum seeker, fleeing persecution by the government due to my activism against human rights violations. Since then it has become my adopted home and I have settled well into life here.
“There has been support available to me, but I have also had my fair share of difficulties and challenges, and I also miss my family who are still in Zimbabwe, which is hard. I think this report highlights the difficulties and challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees coming to Northern Ireland, and suggests how things can be improved to make integration easier for everyone.”
Dr Mark Browne from TEO, said: “TEO welcome the launch of this important piece of research. TEO commissioned this research to fill the knowledge gap in our understanding of the lives of asylum seekers and refugees. While asylum policy is made in Westminster, the Executive has powers to address some of the problems faced by asylum seekers and refugees here. It has exercised these powers in the past to place very positive initiatives in important areas like education, health and helping people in crisis. This research will now help us develop a refugee integration strategy.”
The research, which engaged with asylum seekers, refugees, civil sector organisations and services in health, education, labour and housing, will support the development of a number of key integration strategies for asylum seekers and refugees in Northern Ireland’s Society.