NI Executive agrees schemes to resettle Afghan refugees

Stormont political leaders have agreed measures to allow vulnerable people fleeing Afghanistan to resettle in Northern Ireland.

By Jonathan McCambridge
Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 11:56 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 10:48 am

Work is continuing to determine the final number of citizens who will be resettled in Northern Ireland, but an Executive statement said arrangements were being made to support their arrival as soon as possible.

Following Afghanistan’s collapse to Taliban control, an emergency evacuation effort saw 15,000 people brought back to the UK.

First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill are to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, advising him of Stormont’s commitment to assist with the humanitarian crisis.

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Taliban fighters in Kabul following the fal of the Afghan capital. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Mr Givan said: “We have all been moved by the scenes in Afghanistan, and our first instinct is always to help those seeking refuge.

“Work has been ongoing for some time to identify the size and scale of need, and to see what facilities and resources are required.

“This is an effort that goes beyond the Executive, and involves the UK Government as well as a range of statutory and voluntary organisations in Northern Ireland.

“I have said before that Northern Ireland has not been found wanting when it comes to those seeking refuge or fleeing persecution.

“In the wake of the Syrian conflict, Northern Ireland took in more than 1,800 people, a higher proportional share than anywhere else in the UK.

“I am pleased that the political will exists around the Executive table to offer assistance to those fleeing Afghanistan.

“We will continue to engage the Home Office on the wider asylum support to ensure we are best placed to offer support to all fleeing persecution.”

Ms O’Neill said: “It has been distressing to watch the unfolding humanitarian and refugee crisis in Afghanistan, and our hearts go out to the people who are clearly in a desperate situation, particularly the women and girls whose human and civil rights will be under threat.

“As an Executive we are united in our determination to do whatever we can to provide help and support to those individuals and families who come here seeking sanctuary.

“We have asked our officials to work urgently with all relevant agencies to expedite resettlement here by putting in place the necessary measures to ensure any Afghan refugees have appropriate access to vital services such as housing, healthcare, benefits, education and employment opportunities.

“We have also asked them to look at how we can best support those vulnerable Afghans who are not part of formal resettlement schemes but arrive here seeking asylum.”

The Executive has agreed to accept refugees arriving under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme.