Asylum and Refugee Issues

Many people in Northern Ireland have never met a refugee or person who is seeking asylum here but they may have been given misleading impressions by what they have read in newspapers and they do not know where to get answers to basic questions. The information included here is designed to help provide a better understanding of asylum in N. Ireland and can also be found in our booklet Refugees in Northern Ireland – Some Basic Facts.

Who is an asylum seeker? 

A person who is looking for a safe place outside her/his own country. People seek asylum if they fear persecution in their own country because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, social group or political opinion.

What is our obligation to people seeking asylum?

The UK signed the 1951 UN Convention Relating to Refugees and has agreed to allow people to enter the country to apply for asylum here. They have a legal right to be here while their application is considered. Equally, anyone from this country may seek asylum in any other country that has signed the convention.

Who is a refugee?

Someone who applies for asylum, and is successful in being granted refugee status. ‘Refugee’ is also sometimes used as a general term for people who have been displaced from their homes through persecution, civil unrest and war.