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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April, 2005, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
NI 'must be safer for refugees'
Some asylum seekers must survive on 38.96 per week
Some asylum seekers must survive on 38.96 per week
A new guide to make Northern Ireland "a safer refuge for asylum seekers" has been launched in Belfast.

There are an estimated 2,000 refugees in the province, with fewer than 200 asylum applications made annually.

The booklet - Forced to Flee: frequently asked questions about refugees and asylum seekers in NI - is published by the Refugee Action Group.

The coalition of locally-based groups and individuals said it would be widely distributed to interested parties.

These include journalists, politicians, community activists, teachers, churches and the public.

Amnesty International said many asylum seekers were being locked up in Northern Ireland prisons, often in cells for more than 15 hours a day.

Some asylum seekers had to survive on 38.96 per week - "30% below the level of basic income support", said the group.

There is a real need for information of this kind in a society which, as it becomes increasingly diverse, faces new challenges of racism and prejudice
Derick Wilson
Equality Commission

Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan said the booklet would enable interested parties "to have an accurate picture and an informed debate about the reality of asylum and how we can provide a better welcome than we do now".

"The current election asylum debate in Britain should serve as a warning of what can happen when myths and fear replace facts and compassion," he said.

Tim Lezard, president of the National Union of Journalists, said the publication was "a fantastic resource".

"As journalists, we have a responsibility to fairly and accurately report the facts surrounding refugees and asylum seekers so we can inform the public debate," he said.

Derick Wilson of the Equality Commission said it was pleased to fund the guide as part of several initiatives for European Week Against Racism.

"There is a real need for information of this kind in a society which, as it becomes increasingly diverse, faces new challenges of racism and prejudice which are often born out of lack of knowledge and fear," he said.




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