Regional data is sparse and most of the published UK Border Agency figures do not include Northern Ireland as a separate category and the figures that are available are sometimes inconsistent.
Most people who flee to the UK arrive in England. When the UK adopted the policy of dispersing asylum applicants to other parts of the country, over a decade ago, N Ireland was excluded from the scheme. So, of the people who seek sanctuary in the UK, only a tiny number apply in N Ireland and this can make them particularly isolated and vulnerable.
BBC Northern Ireland reporter, Chris Page, published figures in June 2014 following a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office. They were as follows:
• In 2009, 130 people claimed asylum, and 20 had asylum granted.
• In 2010, there were 150 applications, of which 20 were successful.
• In 2011, 200 people applied, with 60 being granted asylum.
• In 2012, 240 people applied for asylum and about a third were successful.
The Law Centre NI estimates that there were about 600 people seeking asylum in N Ireland and living in officially supported accommodation in August 2015. (There would also be a few others who are supporting themselves.) There were around 200 applications for asylum here in the year to August 2015 (less than 1% of the UK’s asylum applications). This figure does not include the dependents of the main applicants and the Law Centre briefing states that, ‘The large majority of asylum applications are single adults whereas approximately one fifth of applications are from families.’
It may take a number of years for some people to have their asylum application assessed so there are always more people with cases under consideration than there are applications in a single year. The Law Centre says that those who arrive here are from very troubled areas.
Asylum seekers come from countries from around the globe that are experiencing war, conflict and human rights abuses. In Northern Ireland, asylum applicants are most commonly from China, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
The Detail web site states that in the quarter ending June 2015, the countries for which the most applications were under consideration in N Ireland were: ‘China (154 asylum applications), Nigeria (78), Somalia (58), Sudan (40), Zimbabwe (34), Algeria (14), Syria (14), Iran (13), South Africa (13) and Albania (6).’ These figures are only for those who are receiving asylum support, so there will have been a number others who were supporting themselves. The large numbers of Chinese people in the figures does not necessarily mean that a greater number of people arrive seeking asylum at any one time. The numbers may reflect the fact that Chinese cases are difficult to assess and the process often takes several years.
There are an additional number of young people (25 between 2011 and 2015), unaccompanied minors or separated children, who are the responsibility of Social Services.
No figures are available for the number of people living locally who have been granted refugee status.