Responsibility for Integration
- The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) has overall responsibility for integration.
The Racial Equality Unit within OFMDFM manages a fund that is targetted at helping minority-ethnic groups (and other groups in the wider community) to work together to foster integration. As well as the Racial Equality Unit, a Racial Equality Forum was set up to help draw up an action plan, to implement the strategy, and to monitor and review progress.
The Racial Equality Forum was in abeyance for some time but it began to meet again in November 2009, with themed sub groups to make it more effective. EMBRACE is represented on the Immigration Sub-Group that considers policy issues such as destitution for people who have no recourse to public funds, access to English language classes, and the possibility of people seeking asylum here being allowed to work. The Law Centre NI provides secretarial back up for this group.
In July 2005, the Government published A Racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland 2005-2010. There was a long delay in developing a new strategy. In 2014 the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) published A Sense of Belonging: Delivering Social Change through a Racial Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland 2014 – 2024 with six strategic aims:
The Elimination of Racial Inequality
Combating racism and hate crime
Equality of Service Provision
There is an online consultation questionnaire. The closing date for responses is 10th October 2014.
OFMDFM is also consulting on Racial Equality Strategy Indicators.
There has also been discussion about the need for a refugee integration strategy. See EMBRACE refugees pages.
A number of other departments and public bodies are working on integration issues and rights issues. The Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) used to coordinate a Migrant Worker Thematic Sub-Group of the Racial Equality Forum facilitating networking between civil servants, people from voluntary and statutory bodies, business and trade unions. DEL has developed good practice guidelines on the use of interpreters and in January 2010 published a brief guide to Living and Working in Northern Ireland. They have also sponsored useful research including three major reports in 2009.
(DEL is also responsible for the Employment Agency Inspectorate which helps to protect both migrant workers and workers from the established community. They also assist people in getting their qualifications recognised.)
There is an All Party Assembly Group on Ethnic Minority Communities at Stormont that aims to promote and monitor the establishment of appropriate racial equality strategies within Government departments and in society in general. It is comprised of representatives of black and minority-ethnic support groups and political representatives.
The Community Relations Council has a role in good relations work, independent of Government and representative of civic society.
Good Relations Officers (GROs) in district councils promote and fund good relations activities at local level.