Government Failures Creating Hostile Environment For Migrants
THE Home Office should invest more money processing those seeking international protection instead of paying out millions to house them in hotels and temporary accommodation.
That is the view of the North West Migrants Forum following reports that the government is planning to place 500 people in the former Kinnegar army barracks in County Down.
Figures show that in December there were over 130,000 people across the UK awaiting a decision from the Home Office. Many of those on the waiting list will have been in the system for over a year, living in limbo in hotel rooms or B&Bs.
The North West Migrants Forum in Derry said that a failure by the Conservative government to invest in resources to deal with the backlog was leading to mounting tensions within local communities.
“We want the Home Office to stop scapegoating migrants and instead speed up the application process,” said Lilian Seenoi Barr, Director of Programmes at the North West Migrants Forum.
“They need to start making decisions quickly instead of putting people in camps where they face being isolated and cut off from local communities rather than being integrated into them.”
Many of those seeking international protection in Northern Ireland are from places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the political instability in their home countries, there is virtually no prospect of them returning and they are almost guaranteed sanctuary here.
Lillian Seenoi Barr said, “We have people who are genuinely seeking protection in our city and region, many of whom have been here for over a year at this stage. Yet the Home Office seems to be using the situation to create tensions and encourage a backlash from the public.”
One element of that backlash is the claim that many of those arriving in Northern Ireland are ‘economic migrants’ – moving here simply to improve their standard of living.
The reality is that many of those being relocated to the north west are highly skilled individuals – far from the negative stereotype being pushed by some sections of society.
“Refugees are not economic migrants, but we do have those who have come on work visas to be our doctors, nurses, engineers, people coming to set up businesses here – absolutely vital to our economy and health service”.
“The Conservative government needs to put an end to the narrative that is out there, it needs to stop creating a hostile environment and it needs to stop this demonisation of people who are being blamed for the conditions society is facing.
“It is a political failure to invest that is causing this crisis, not those genuinely looking for protection.
“If more money was spent processing people when they arrive here rather than putting millions of pounds into the pockets of private accommodation providers then everyone would be better off,” Ms Barr added.