Building a Welcoming Community

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Further Reading

Migration Observatory briefing, November 2013
Migration Observatory ‘policy primer’ on detention in the UK
Liz Griffith, Prison by another name in Frontline Social Welfare Law Quarterly, 81, Autumn 2011
Refugee Action Group (RAG) Distant Voices, Shaken Lives; Human Stories of Immigration Detention from Northern Ireland
NI Human Rights Commission Our Hidden Borders: The UK Border Agency’s Powers of Detention
Law Centre (NI) briefing on Operation Gull, 2008
Right to Remain (formerly the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns) online information on immigration detention
Crossing the Border EMBRACE Fact sheet


Migration terminology

Q Who is an immigrant?

A This term has been applied to all people coming into a country, but it is now often applied to people who intend to settle and integrate here, as opposed to being a more temporary migrant. It is important not to view people who are part of long-established minority-ethnic communities and populations as ‘immigrants’.

Read more

How many people have come here recently?


It is estimated that around 175,000 long-term international migrants arrived in N Ireland between 2000 and 2014. Of these 143,000 left at some point and 32,000 remained. There are variations towards the end of this period. Because of the financial crisis and recession, between 2009 and 2013 more people left than arrived. There has been a small upturn recently, with 2,237 more people arriving than leaving between July 2013 and June 2014. Read more

Other Resources


Migration in N Ireland research paper published by NI Assembly
A 26 page briefing on migration patterns and impact over the past 10 years prepared by Dr Raymond Russell can be accessed here  www.niassembly.gov.uk/Documents/RaISe/Publications/2012/general/3112.pdf


Housing News Winter Information leaflet in several languages
The NI Housing Executive’s Winter freeze advice booklet is now available in a number of languages. These can be accessed via their website here.

Promoting Racial Equality in Northern Ireland’s Post-Primary Schools
The Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) has prepared a report on post-primary school experience for minority ethnic students. Some recommendations are given. See the report here.

Research on Health and Health Provision
Barriers to Migrant Health and Wellbeing in Belfast carries the research findings of the Belfast Health Development Unit. The document highlights issues including problems accessing services, language barriers, racism and harassment. View the document here.

News 2013

November 2013


Workshops at the Salvation Army Family Centre

Working with Refugees in Northern Ireland:  The woman from Zimbabwe had fled for her life from that country a year ago. She shared her grief for her friends and colleagues who have been murdered while she was fortunate to escape. She shared the sorrow of knowing that her mother is aging and she can’t be there to help and care for her. Will she see her again? The hardship and pain of this young woman’s story was tangible to those there listening.“Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’” (Matthew 2:13)

We heard Mazvita’s* story at the EMBRACE NI Workshops on Refugee Issues at the Salvation Army Family Centre in North Belfast recently. It was a great opportunity to meet with staff and learn about their work.

In recent years the population in Northern Ireland has changed. Now there are thousands of people from different countries who call this place home. All have different reasons for migrating here (e.g. to study, to find work or a better life). However, a small group of people had to flee their own country, because of persecution or a threat to their lives – they came to Northern Ireland to find a safe place, to seek asylum here.

The UK is home to fewer than 2% of the total number of refugees in the world. The UK Border Agency recorded only 140 applications in Northern Ireland in 2012.  The top countries of origin of asylum applicants in N Ireland in 2012 were as follows: 48 Somalia, 30 China, 13 Sudan, 9 Zimbabwe, 8 Syria, 6 Iran, 5 Nigeria, 4 India, 3 Kuwait, 2 Palestine, 2 Sri Lanka.

People seeking asylum face many challenges such as coping with trauma, separation from family members, ill health, anxiety about the outcome of the application, limited income, problems with language, bewilderment at getting to know how a different culture works, loneliness and isolation and the difficulty of making new friends. Those who find themselves in Salvation Army accommodation can benefit if the staff understand the experiences they have had and what it feels like to be a refugee.

*the name is changed

August 2013

‘Beyond the myths’ – EMBRACE workshops for churches: Embracing issues of asylum and migration

workshops edgehill aug 2013 web
The terms, ‘a migrant, an asylum seeker, and refugees have such negative meanings’, stated one of the participants at the EMBRACE workshops for churches. Another participant observed: ‘If someone from here (NI) migrates to Australia or New Zealand, we don’t see him or her as a migrant’.On the 20th of August at Edgehill College in Belfast, EMBRACE NI held a set of workshops entitled, ‘Beyond the Myths’. They focused on addressing myths relating to migration and people seeking asylum. Participants had opportunities to hear personal stories and learn some facts about migration and the asylum process. The workshops allowed for small group discussion in an informal café style setting.Participants met a gentleman who came to Northern Ireland from Chile. He came to Belfast to study. His experience as an immigrant has for the most part been very positive. Of course there were little things to overcome, like no one passing the football to him, but he feels that some of that is to be expected. He believes it is incumbent on the immigrant to earn the trust of the community. “Everyone is a product of immigration,” he says, citing his Catalonian ancestry as well as his wife’s German heritage. “Immigration is a two way thing”.Nowadays around 214 million people in the world live outside their country of birth – one in 33. And over 80 million people in the world have Irish blood. People have moved from their home countries for centuries, for all sorts of reasons, including the demand for workers in countries like the UK. Migrant numbers have risen rapidly in the last decade.A person seeking asylum from Zimbabwe has had a much more difficult journey. She shared her story of having lost her entire family to the turmoil of her home country. She had to flee. In 2010 she came to NI seeking asylum. The process, as is often the case, took many months during which she received around £35 per week to live on. She was not allowed to work during this time. Eventually, she was denied refugee status and her financial support was cut off. She found herself on the street with no recourse to public funds and she lost all hope. Fortunately, her circumstances have improved and she has been volunteering at the Belfast Friendship Club. She says “If you’re down – get busy”. She is still not allowed to work, and her status in NI remains unresolved.The Bible encourages us to welcome strangers in our midst – not always an easy task in the present economic and political climate. There are many myths and negative attitudes around migration and asylum due in large part to misinformation but also to a simple failure to identify with migrants as fellow humans.According to the 2011 Census 95.49% of the people living in Northern Ireland were born in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. Of the remaining 4.51%, 45,407 were born elsewhere in the European Union leaving only 36,046 people from other countries.

May 2013                       10 Years On: EMBRACE Spring Meeting & AGM
The 2013 EMBRACE Spring Meeting and AGM was held on Thursday, May 16th in Edgehill Theological College,  Belfast. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the launch of EMBRACE. In recognition of reaching this point, the Spring Meeting provided an overview of migration over the past 10 years and also considered what the possible future developments may be. The keynote address was given by Dr Duncan Morrow (see DVD recording above). Jenna Liechty Martin and Peter Martin who have been volunteers with EMBRACE for almost three years presented a reflection on what they had learned being both host and guest in Northern Ireland during their time here. Read the talk here.

News 2012

November 2012       And You Welcomed Me Workshops for Churches held in Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey
On the 15th and  26th of November EMBRACE workshops were held in Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey. They were organised by Lynda Kennedy, R/EID Project Officer from Carrickfergus, Antrim, Newtownabbey Peace III Partnership. Topics discussed at the workshops included:
– Who’s who? Who’s here?
– Start where you are / Lifting language barriers
– Lost in Translation – Exploring cultural differences
– ‘Hot Potatoes’ – Helping a stranger in need
Throughout the evening participants had the opportunity to join in conversation around the topics listed above in an informal, café-dialogue manner. By the end of the workshops, participants conveyed that they felt better informed and more equipped to respond to the issues in their own communities.

The following reflections were shared by some who attended the workshops. They noted that most valuable aspects of the workshop were:
– Information on schemes that are in place, what help is available and what opportunities there are to assist.
– Improving my knowledge and giving me a better understanding of the issues; hopefully as a church we will follow up what we’ve learned tonight.
– Discussing ways in which to engage with other nationalities.
– Finding out more information in regards to situation in NI
– Hearing about Polish culture
– I was not aware of some of the issues raised such as migrant/refugee status.
– Having time to think through these issues
Workshops are a great opportunity to share, learn and exchange our knowledge and experience. If you would like a similar EMBRACE event to be held in your town/city, please contact Aneta at aneta@embraceni.org


September 2012      Migration Awareness Training in Armagh

On the 22nd of September EMBRACE delivered Migration Awareness Training to a group of volunteers in a local church in Armagh. The church hosts English classes for beginners. Volunteers provide a warm welcome to people who are new to the Armagh area. The training was very well received; participants gave encouraging feedback:
–          The interaction was great + made information more easily remembered. Very encouraging.
–          Just being made more aware of the whole issue of migration
–          Having time to consider more issues than just language
–          Gave me an understanding of the position migrants find themselves in
–          Structured approach to discussing migrants. This is the start of a process
–          Clarification of migrants rights and entitlements
–          Encouraged to see we are actually doing most things properly. Also gained further useful information.
–          Better understanding of the rights and entitlements
The training is an interactive session which explores inward and outward migration and the rights of migrant workers in N Ireland. It aims to dispel myths and provide practical information on issues relating to migration. If you would like to host Migration Awareness Training at your church / group, please contact Aneta at aneta@embraceni.com

February 2012

On 24th February 2012 EMBRACE launched a multilingual welcome poster at Belfast City Hall. EMBRACE Chairperson, Denise Wright and Councillor Marie Hendron (pictured with the poster) spoke of the value of communicating welcome through materials such as the poster. A Press Release with details of the event can be viewed here. Some supporting materials were also prepared and available at the event including a booklet with phrases to assist in communicating welcome across language differences. The poster and other materials are available from our office and at all EMBRACE events.