The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness today addressed an information session held by Law Centre (NI) for Syrian refugee families at Holywell Trust in Derry and launched a guide on their rights and responsibilities.
47 Syrian refugees were welcomed to Derry in May, the second group to arrive under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. Written in English and Arabic, the guide is designed to help them integrate into the community.
The deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness 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.”
When refugees first arrive under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, they are accompanied by key-workers who help them settle in their new home. The key workers are provided by the Syrian VPR Consortium with staff from Barnardos and Extern. The key workers take care of the families’ welfare in the first weeks, help with registering for healthcare, schools and benefits and with any other urgent issues that may arise.
The families are then phased in towards more independence in managing their own lives, looking for work and integrating into the community. It is at that stage that the guide, ‘Your Rights in Northern Ireland, a Guide for People in Northern Ireland under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme’, becomes an important tool, providing them with the necessary knowledge to do this successfully.
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. We have used our expertise to produce a guide that will help them to understand how life here works, what their rights and responsibilities are and where they can get help and advice. The aim is to help them make informed decisions and ease their integration in the community.”
The Law Centre relied on its specialist knowledge of social security, health and social care, employment rights, immigration law, human rights and equality laws to produce the guide, and also enlisted the help of organisations such as Housing Rights and Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
The guide is a result of joined working between The Executive Office, the Law Centre and the Human Rights Commission.