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Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — The Executive Office – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Raymond McCartney Raymond McCartney Sinn Féin 2:15 pm, 7th November 2016

5. Mr McCartney asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister for an update on the vulnerable persons relocation scheme. (AQO 571/16-21)

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

Mr Speaker, with your permission I will ask Junior Minister Ross to answer this question.

Photo of Alastair Ross Alastair Ross DUP

Just four days ago, the fifth group of refugees arrived here through the scheme. Each new arrival will receive the same care and support as previous groups to integrate and start their lives anew. We are very proud of the part that we have played in the vulnerable persons relocation scheme. With our partners from the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector, we have shown that we can make the scheme work here successfully. People here have been very welcoming to those families in their time of need and we will continue to welcome refugees on a phased basis over the coming months.

Photo of Raymond McCartney Raymond McCartney Sinn Féin

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire. I thank the Minister for his answer and add my gratitude, particularly from the people in Derry, for the good work carried out by many individuals and organisations in welcoming refugees. Can the Minister give an update on how the complex needs of many refugees are being addressed on an ongoing basis?

Photo of Alastair Ross Alastair Ross DUP

I thank the Member for his supplementary question. Through the scheme, we are making sure that they are welcome in local communities, and we are working with communities to address their many complex needs. Over the course of the vulnerable persons relocation scheme, we have been able to welcome just short of 300 individuals. They all have very different needs, and we have been trying to support them through various offices in the Executive Office and wider government to make sure that any specific needs that they have are dealt with and that any local issues that they have can be resolved at local level.

Photo of Paula Bradshaw Paula Bradshaw Alliance

Thank you very much for your answers to date. Following on from the question on NGOs and the sad news last week that the Northern Ireland Council For Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) will have to close its doors, how will you ensure that the NGOs have sustained funding to support them? The problems will not be dealt with very quickly.

Photo of Alastair Ross Alastair Ross DUP

I thank the Member for that, not least because it gives me an opportunity to thank Patrick Yu for his contribution over many years as the chairperson of NICEM. It is important to put on record the fact that NICEM has received a considerable amount of money since the minority ethnic development fund was conceived in 2001; in 2015-16 alone, the group received £90,000. Members will be aware that the minority ethnic development fund has become an increasingly competitive process. In 2016-17, there were 99 applications, of which 32 were successful, for a fund worth just over £1 million. NICEM made two applications, was advised that it had been unsuccessful and was given feedback on those applications.

I point out to the Member that, although NICEM has decided that it is no longer capable of continuing as an entity, we have seen many new groups emerge during that time. Those groups provide support to and reflect the needs of their members, not least in lobbying government and being a critical friend of government. I see more organisations being able to access funding than before, and I am confident that those organisations — not least through the racial equality subgroup — will make sure that their voice is heard and that they can work alongside government to address the needs of the people whom they represent.