Belfast Migrant Centre official opening

Attended the official opening of the Belfast Migrant Centre, located at Ascot House, Shaftesbury Square, Belfast. This centre was the result of Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) and its Welcome House project, a central advice and support centre for people from ethnic minority communities in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Migrant Centre is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and its Reaching Communities programme. The centre will operate as a partnership among NICEM, UNISON, Polish Association Northern Ireland, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

After the official opening by Councillor Pat Convery (Lord Mayor of Belfast) and Patrick Taran (International Labour Organization (ILO)), there were several short speeches.

The Lord Mayor described Belfast as a city in transition. It is now a city of choice for new arrivals, in contrast to the history of emigration. He underlined the points that diversity presents opportunities and openness is the key to economic success. For him, migrants are people who have a legitimate stake in the city.

Alan Shannon (Permanent Secretary at the Department of Employment and Learning) stepped in for Minister Danny Kennedy. Mr Shannon said that immigration has been a continuous process in Ireland, over many hundreds of years. Speaking for his Executive Department, he said that he believed they have a decent framework for the protection of ethnic minority and migrant rights, but an admitted weakness is in the area of dissemination of information. Here, he was very pleased to be working with the Belfast Migrant Centre.

Patrick Taran, a Senior Migration Specialist at ILO, described the centre as a symbolic coming of age, as an example of best practice that he can share with other ILO members.

Anna Lo MLA appeared right at the end of the formal proceedings, and made impromptu remarks of congratulations. She also said that it was important that the burden of protecting minority rights does not fall mainly on minority organisations, but vitally includes other organisations, such as statutory bodies and trade unions.

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay to mingle. But there was a good turnout of several dozen supporters, and I certainly wish them every success.

Belfast Migrant Centre website:

Official Press Release:

  • Hedley Lamarr

    It’s often difficult living away from home as an economic migrant. Little community or family support makes for a difficult life.

    Some refugees who have fled torture or probable death in their home countries have a terrible time in Northern Ireland because they are of a different colour or speak with a foreign tongue.

    Anything that can help redress these hardships and injustices is not only a great thing but a necessary thing.

  • Jim

    Ireland itself has been the epicentre of a diaspora for the past two hundred years and the people of this island – of all religions – have experienced the alienation and difficulties of resettling in foreign countries. I have seen the welcoming humanity that exists in Irish communities abroad, for example in Canada, where Irish people of both main religions unite in a common kindred spirit to help their fellows just off the plane. We should always be mindful of this level of help and look into our own hearts and find ways to make migrant workers welcome. Having said that, how do you in a recession when jobs are disappearing fast welcome migrant workers? The answer is: the same as we do any workers. The have the same rights as we have. We can learn much from other cultures and moving to a multi-cultural, multiracial society can’t be any worse than living in the bipolar, tinder box of Norn Iron, a mini-state over-politicised and infatuated with its own historic past at the expense of its future. We should be more appreciative of what we have got compared to some of the genuine migrants who arrive on our shores. Reality check time ahead. Good luck to the Belfast Migrant Centre!!

  • becky

    right next door to the BRU thats handy.