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Including new communities

Over the past decade Belfast has seen a increase in inward migration to the city with the arrival of migrant workers from European countries that joined the European Union in 2004 and those who came to work in the IT and health sectors. There has also been an increase, in recent years, in the number of people seeking asylum.  At the end of 2015, Belfast also received a number of Syrian refugee families under the UK governments Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

The increase in diversity has created opportunities for innovation and prosperity; it has provided:

  • cultural richness
  • skills
  • knowledge
  • new ideas, and
  • new economic connections with the world.

The integration and inclusion of new communities is a strong focus of our work.  Over the past 10 years the Good Relations Unit has developed strong links with minority ethnic communities living in the city as well as their supporting organisations.  With our partners across the city, we have been involved in many projects aimed at improving relations across diverse communities.

Our role is to support the integration and inclusion of new communities in the city through a number of initiatives, including:

Funding

Through our good relations funding scheme, we have funded a number of projects across the city that aim to support the integration and inclusion of new communities and to promote awareness of diversity. 

Migrant forum

We created a migrant forum to support information and collaborative working within the city on issues relating to migration.

Training

In partnership with south Belfast round table we deliver training programmes on migration awareness and ending hate. We also organise training on refugee and asylum awareness, as well as Islamic awareness. 

We are currently funding Community Relations in Schools to deliver intervention programmes in schools exploring issues around diversity, stereotypes, bias and harassment. The training programme will develop the capacity, skills and strategies of young people and school staff to understand diversity, the impact of sectarianism and racism and to challenge racist and sectarian behaviour.  

DiverseCity Programme

We are organising a monthly programme of DiverseCity initiatives to encourage an increased awareness of issues around diversity. 

The programme provides participants with an opportunity to meet and engage with representatives from other faith, ethnic and political backgrounds. 

The programme includes:

  • Traveller awareness workshop
  • Roma awareness workshop
  • Islamic awareness training
  • Visit to the Jewish Synagogue
  • Asylum awareness workshop
  • Small Worlds Event
  • Living Library
  • Migration awareness training, and
  • ending hate in our communities training.

Resources 

To support the inclusion of migrant, minority ethnic, refugee and asylum communities, we have produced resources that include:

Refugee transition guide - We identified an information gap relating to the provision of advice for people who claim asylum and are granted permission to stay. To address this gap we developed a refugee transition guide for new refugees, their advisers and staff in statutory agencies. It’s designed to help voluntary and statutory agencies provide a joined up service and prevent unnecessary poverty and homelessness during this difficult transition stage. The guide contains information on finding a home, looking for work, applying for benefits, education, healthcare, family reunion and long term immigration status. It is available in several languages.

New to Belfast - This popular guide provides information on the range of support services available to black and minority ethnic people living in Belfast. 

Future priorities and the Peace Programme

The Good Relations Unit is developing a proposal for an integration and inclusion project to form part of our Peace Programme.   The focus of the project is to support the creation of neighbourhoods where people can live in close proximity, accept differences, mix with those they wish to, and have agreed and effective means for resolving disagreements and tensions.