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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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.  Read more

Key Contacts

Bryson Intercultural/Migrant Help
Advice and support for people needing to claim asylum.
Contact: Bryson House, 28 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7FE
Tel: (028) 9031 5744

The Refugee Action Group Immigration Detention Helpline
A free and confidential helpline available out-of-hours for anyone detained in Northern Ireland. A trained volunteer will notify the detainee’s family where possible and contact an immigration solicitor who may be able to assist the detainee in challenging his/her detention. Tel: 0800 840 0495

Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS)
This refugee-led group advises and supports refugees and people who are seeking asylum and encourages integration within the local community. For more information visit the NICRAS website
Contact: NICRAS, 143A University Street, Belfast, BT7 1HP   Tel: 028 9024 6699  Email:

World Refugee Situation

There are an unprecedented number of refugees in the world today. More than a million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe in 2015, but this is a small percentage of the people who have had to leave their homes. In June 2015 the UN Refugee Agency said that ‘one in every 122 human beings is now either a refugee, internally displaced [in their own country], or seeking asylum’, a total of 65.3 million forcibly displaced people. Read more

Syrian Refugees In Northern Ireland

A tenth group of Syrian refugees arrived in Northern Ireland on 16th and 17th August 2017 through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme, bringing the total to 632 people who have been welcomed here since the scheme began in 2015. The latest briefing on the scheme can be accessed here

The consortium tasked with providing support to Syrian refugees brought here through the scheme has greatly appreciated the contributions of goods and financial  support given by individuals and groups.  As more refugees arrive, continued support is needed, and the consortium has provided a list of suggested items for donation.
EMBRACE has been providing funding for an initial fuel supply, some toiletries and baby items. We are grateful to all to have contributed to this support.

To help provide information on the Syrian refugees coming to Northern Ireland within the context of the broader scope of asylum locally EMBRACE has prepared Refugees in Northern Ireland – Some Basic Facts. Hard copies of this booklet are available free on request from our office.

A People Uprooted

The civil war in Syria, which began in 2011, has forced millions of Syrians to flee their homes. In mid 2017 it is estimated that 6.3 million people are displaced within Syria, with a further 5.1 million taking refuge in neighbouring countries. A small number have fled further, with some coming to Europe. Images of their journeys are shown in the media and there are questions as to whether any arrive in Northern Ireland.  Read more

UK Asylum Statistics

In 2015 there were just 32,414 applications for asylum (excluding 6,464 dependents), up 29% since 2104 but much lower than the 84,130 applications in 2002. The UK figures do not reflect the magnitude of the world situation.

There were 3,043 applications for asylum in the UK in 2015 from separated or unaccompanied children.

The UK is host to less than 1% of the world’s refugees. The UN Refugee Agency has said that some of the poorest countries in the world, in the developing regions, were hosting 86% of refugees in 2015.  Read more