Homeless Non-nationals: Deportation

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 20th September 2021.

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Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 20th September 2021

T3. Dr Archibald asked the Minister for Communities for her assessment of the British Home Office’s plans to deport homeless non-nationals on the grounds of rough sleeping, even if they had previously been granted permission to stay. (AQT 1563/17-22)

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

It is a disgraceful policy and is in line with other policies that show where this British Government are and their intent around human rights and equality issues.

I met NGOs such as the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and others on the issue, and, last week, I met asylum seekers and refugees to look at issues such as destitution. I made a decision recently and have communicated it to all housing providers that we should not assist in that policy direction. I do not feel that, if you provide homeless services, you should be doing the work of the British Home Office, particularly given its regressive approach to refugees and asylum seekers. I have put out my opinion that we should not adhere to this, and I know that, again, my Scottish and Welsh counterparts have done the same.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for her response and for her leadership on the issue in refusing to implement those cruel and inhumane measures. I have previously engaged with, for example, the Red Cross around issues of destitution among refugees and asylum seekers. The British Home Office is using this to target some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and I ask the Minister to ensure that her objections to the policy are registered directly with the British Home Office.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

My views on the direction of travel and what the policy is about have been communicated directly to the British Home Office, so officials there are clear about my view. As I said, last week, I met organisations, refugees and asylum seekers who told their stories, many of which were horrific. Some fled their home for reasons outside their control. Work needs to be done here to create a safe space where they feel included and where they can actively participate, and the biggest thing is that barriers put in by the Home Office actually restrict them in participating. Work is one of the key areas, along with having enough income and not having recourse to public funds. Indeed, the cross-departmental group that NILGA — the Local Government Association — runs is looking at all those issues, and I gave a commitment at that meeting that I will continue to work with that group on areas that relate to my Department.