Belfast Migrant Centre official opening

20101208_belfast_migrant_centre

Attended the official opening of the Belfast Migrant Centre, located at Ascot House, Shaftesbury Square, Belfast. This centre was the result of Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) and its Welcome House project, a central advice and support centre for people from ethnic minority communities in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Migrant Centre is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and its Reaching Communities programme. The centre will operate as a partnership among NICEM, UNISON, Polish Association Northern Ireland, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

After the official opening by Councillor Pat Convery (Lord Mayor of Belfast) and Patrick Taran (International Labour Organization (ILO)), there were several short speeches.

The Lord Mayor described Belfast as a city in transition. It is now a city of choice for new arrivals, in contrast to the history of emigration. He underlined the points that diversity presents opportunities and openness is the key to economic success. For him, migrants are people who have a legitimate stake in the city.

Alan Shannon (Permanent Secretary at the Department of Employment and Learning) stepped in for Minister Danny Kennedy. Mr Shannon said that immigration has been a continuous process in Ireland, over many hundreds of years. Speaking for his Executive Department, he said that he believed they have a decent framework for the protection of ethnic minority and migrant rights, but an admitted weakness is in the area of dissemination of information. Here, he was very pleased to be working with the Belfast Migrant Centre.

Patrick Taran, a Senior Migration Specialist at ILO, described the centre as a symbolic coming of age, as an example of best practice that he can share with other ILO members.

Anna Lo MLA appeared right at the end of the formal proceedings, and made impromptu remarks of congratulations. She also said that it was important that the burden of protecting minority rights does not fall mainly on minority organisations, but vitally includes other organisations, such as statutory bodies and trade unions.

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay to mingle. But there was a good turnout of several dozen supporters, and I certainly wish them every success.

Belfast Migrant Centre website: http://belfastmigrantcentre.org

Official Press Release:

20101208 Belfast Migrant Centre Press Release.pdf
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2 thoughts on “Belfast Migrant Centre official opening

  1. Patrick Yu needs to take off the blinkers he is wearing and take a look around himself, there is a recession on, there are people like myself out there trying to find employment in minimum wage jobs and not getting a look in because a lot of employers will take a foreign worker who will work for less, this is FACT. I continually meet people like myself with a similar story to tell. One friend of mine was got rid of by an employer last year and a Polish employee kept on because he would work more hours for less money(he shared a house with five others) my friend could not afford to work for less, living by himself, he has been on the dole ever since. I could fill several pages with similar stories. So spare a thought for the people from here out there trying to find work. And whenever I hear about migrants doing the jobs no one else will do, how insulting is this, I have worked outside in all weathers, picked fruit, delivered leaflets, dug spuds etc over the years. And they do jump the housing queue, FACT! I have seen it myself. Well after reading this you probably think I am a Daily Mail reading, Right wing bigot, well you would be wrong. THE PEOPLE OF ULSTER DONT NEED ANY MORE MIGRANTS COMING HERE, THERE ARE ONLY SO MANY JOBS, SO MANY HOUSES to go round.Well you probably wont put this on your site anyway.

  2. Dear Ann, Thank you for your comments which indeed reflect the concerns of other unemployed people in Northern Ireland. You are raising the very important issue of the illegal exploitation of migrant workers in Northern Ireland. The Belfast Migrant Centre exists to protect migrant workers from being exploited by dishonest employers and to help them understand how the legislation can help them. We offer a multi-lingual service which provides advocacy, advice and support to migrants ensuring that they are aware of their rights regarding benefits and employment. To help us ensure that local employers do not break the law by paying migrant workers below the minimum wage, as well as tying up their employment contracts with accommodation provisions, it is important that all members of society who are aware of such infractions report them to the Belfast Migrant Centre, the Equality Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Inland Revenue (on tax evasion) etc. You mention that you know of such stories and we would strongly encourage you to make us or other relevant agencies aware of these. Immigration is regulated by the state (except for matters under the devolved administration) and it is a reality in all western societies. Currently most of the migrants are from A8 and A2 countries. They are European citizens and the UK government has no power to control their movement (the same rule applies to all British and Irish citizens who are free to work and travel in other Member States). For non-EU migrants such as those working in the health care sector from the Philippine and India, and staff from inward investment companies based in the US, India and China (as well as other countries), their presence in Northern Ireland is assisting our economy. Unfortunately there are little information and debates to inform the public about the economic contribution of migrant workers and inward investment companies towards our economy. Migrants are an essential part of the economic recovery and deserve the same human rights as any other member of society. As such, it is our duty to ensure that all signs of exploitation of migrant workers are reported in order to ensure that neither migrants nor local workers and job seekers suffer from the actions of unscrupulous employers.

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