Asylum Accommodation: Northern Ireland

Home Department – in the House of Commons at 3:03 pm on 22nd March 2021.

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Photo of Claire Hanna Claire Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party, Belfast South 3:03 pm, 22nd March 2021

What recent discussions her Department has had with the Northern Ireland Executive on asylum accommodation in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Home Office officials meet weekly with the Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership to discuss intake, accommodation and other operational matters relating to asylum accommodation. That is supplemented by formal monthly meetings with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Belfast City Council, the voluntary and communities sector, public health colleagues and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Claire Hanna Claire Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party, Belfast South

Asylum seekers in Northern Ireland are disadvantaged by a lack of parity in specialist services such as trauma counselling and legal advice, but instead of plugging these gaps, this Secretary of State seems obsessed with introducing ever more punitive and dehumanising policies in her approach to dealing with people fleeing persecution. We have seen the outworkings of offshore processing in Australia, which cost lives and hundreds of millions of pounds; it was a human rights disaster. Will the Minister take the opportunity to confirm that the Department is not pursuing plans to use third countries as dumping grounds? Will the Government instead commit to establishing safe and legal routes, and housing with dignity those who need asylum in the UK?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is disappointing to hear the tone of the hon. Lady’s question, given that the Belfast City Council area is the only part of Northern Ireland to act as a dispersal area. Securing suitable accommodation relies on local communities taking part. Perhaps she may wish to reflect on what more action could be taken by councils where the Social Democratic and Labour party has a presence to match her words.