Lottery grant for Belfast migrant workers centre

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A centre for victims of racial harassment is to open in Belfast later this year.

The centre will provide a one-stop shop with bi-lingual staff for migrants in crisis.

It will be funded with a £424,276 grant from the Big Lottery Fund and is due to open in December.

It will be operated by the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM).

Executive Director Patrick Yu said: "The Belfast migrant centre is an exciting groundbreaking project set up under the umbrella of NICEM.

"It is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland."

The centre will help people access public services and support victims of racist attacks.

It will provide education and training and increase rights awareness.

NICEM immigration officer Ayesha Christie said there has been a large influx of ethnic minorities to NI over the past few years, with people coming to study, work and to reside with family members.

"A lot of people coming to NI are not aware of the public services that they're actually entitled to.

"There may be language barriers, there may be issues of discrimination, racial harrassment and these are a number of issues that we're able to help with," she said.

A panel of ministers will be established to take forward the Northern Ireland Executive's commitment to equality and inclusiveness through the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration initiative.

The Executive will examine what support can be given to migrants who were employed but find themselves out of work.

'Forgotten group'

Another group receiving a major Big Lottery Fund investment is the Northern Ireland Community Addiction Service.

It has been awarded £207,144 to continue a counselling programme for older people with drink and drug problems.

NICAS Director Claire Armstrong said older people with addictions were "often a forgotten group".

"We can also help them to re-establish family relationships that have been ruined because of their addiction, or their goals might be going along to a day centre or attending a lunch club," she said.

A project to train 40 volunteer welfare advisors has also received a Big Lottery Fund grant.

The East Belfast Independent Advice Centre was awarded £500,000 for its Community Advocacy Skills Training programme, which provides advice on issues including welfare benefits, housing, employment and debt and consumer rights.

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