The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in Northern Ireland have announced plans to implement a crisis fund for destitute asylum seekers and migrants.
The Fund of up to £55,000 this financial year will be administered by the Red Cross and is intended to help minority ethnic individuals with no other means of support through emergency situations, for example vulnerable migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups.
Junior Minister Jennifer McCann said: “The Fund aims to provide short term, emergency financial assistance to vulnerable groups such as refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who are facing destitution. The Red Cross will be administering the Fund and their experience in the field of crisis relief and local knowledge makes them ideally placed to help people on the ground.
“I believe that we have a responsibility to show these most vulnerable groups that we are a society that cares and will show them support and dignity.”
Speaking during a visit to the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) premises in Belfast, Junior Minister Bell added: “Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to Northern Ireland can sometimes face potentially overwhelming challenges due to their past circumstances. The Crisis Fund aims to provide short-term financial support with living costs at the right time to help them get back on track.
“We want to build a society that supports people fleeing from persecution and strife. The Crisis Fund is another step towards creating that society through supporting some of the most vulnerable people who want to call Northern Ireland home.”
During his visit Junior Minister Bell met representatives from the Red Cross as well as NICRAS and other partner associations. He also heard first hand from asylum seekers and refugees about their experiences and difficulties encountered.
NICRAS is the only refugee led organisation here that represents the interests of the refugee community. The Red Cross plays a leading role in providing direct support to ethnic minorities across Northern Ireland and works with refugees and asylum seekers on a daily basis.
The Red Cross will be working alongside partner organisations such as NICRAS to administer the fund. The Minority Ethnic Development Fund (MEDF) continues to support many of these partner organisations in their long-term efforts to end disadvantage and destitution.