McGuinness launches guide for Syrian VPR refugees
On Monday 18 July, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA launched a guide on the rights and responsibilities of Syrian VPR refugees in Northern Ireland.
The Minister took the opportunity of an information session held by Law Centre (NI) for Syrian refugee families at Holywell Trust in Derry to formally launch the guide.
51 Syrian refugees were welcomed to Derry in May, the second group to arrive under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. Produced by Law Centre (NI), the bi-lingual English and Arabic Guide will help the Syrian families integrate into the community.
Under the Scheme, when refugees first arrive in Northern Ireland, they are accompanied by key-workers from the Vulnerable Syrian Refugee Consortium who help them settle in their new home. Key workers help families in the first weeks to register for healthcare, schools and benefits and with any other urgent issues that may arise. The Guide is intended to give them the tools to understand their rights, responsibilities and entitlements as they start the process of settling in Northern Ireland, looking for work and integrating into the community.
The Minister said: “I am proud of the north of Ireland and the people of the North West who have risen to the humanitarian challenge and opened their arms and hearts to Syrian refugee families in their time of need.
“We trust this new start will offer hope, opportunity for all and the conditions to live with their family in peace.
"We want to play an active part in ensuring everyone feels welcome, accepted and valued. Access to information, services and knowledge of your rights are an important element of this and The Executive Office is proud to fund this useful guide.
"I commend and congratulate the Law Centre and the Human Rights Commission on the publication of this guide and for their ongoing work in supporting vulnerable refugees.”
Law Centre (NI) Director Glenn Jordan added: “The Syrian families arrive in Northern Ireland from a very different society, with very different laws and systems. At the Law Centre, we have years of experience of working with refugees and asylum seekers and we hope this Guide helps them to understand more about life in Northern Ireland, including their rights and entitlements and how to get help and advice. The aim is to equip them to make informed decisions and ease their integration in the community.”
The guide covers the law on social security, health and social care, employment rights, immigration law, human rights and equality.
It was funded by the Executive Office with support from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, commented: “We were delighted to support this important initiative taken by the Law Centre. It is vital that Northern Ireland welcomes Syrian refugees alongside other asylum seekers and assists people fleeing persecution as effectively and practically as possible”.
(Photos courtesy of The Executive Office)