Asylum seekers and refugees - help and advice
Northern Ireland welcomes people from across the world who are seeking sanctuary from persecution. To help you adapt to life here make sure that you know how to get the support available to you, including healthcare, housing, employment and access to education.
About Northern Ireland
Whether you are new here or have been here for some time you can find out more about Northern Ireland on the following page:
Your local area
There are 11 local councils in Northern Ireland. These councils offer services from managing local sport and leisure centres to collecting your bins:
Find out more about each of the councils at the following links:
- Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council
- Ards and North Down Borough Council
- Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council
- Belfast City Council
- Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council
- Derry City & Strabane District Council
- Fermanagh and Omagh District Council
- Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council
- Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
- Mid Ulster District Council
- Newry, Mourne and Down District Council
Northern Ireland has public transport that can help you travel to work, go shopping or to meet up with friends:
Asylum seekers can get free public transport on Translink buses and trains for six months. Find out more on the following page:
Travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
Asylum seekers do not have the same rights to travel within the Common Travel Area (CTA) as UK, Irish or EU citizens. Find out about the rules for travel in the CTA:
An asylum seeker is someone who has arrived in a country and asked for asylum. Until they get a decision as to whether they are a refugee, they are known as an asylum seeker.
Asylum seekers have some basic rights and there is an expectation that they carry out their responsibilities.
Find out more about the asylum claim process, responsibilities and rights at the following links:
You can find out about the support available if you claim asylum, your rights and the type of representation you should get at the following link:
You can use the drop down list to search for solicitors who specialise in immigration on the Law Society of Northern Ireland website:
Asylum claim guide
Law Centre NI has a free guide poster to the asylum process from start to finish. It includes how the appeals process works and what happens if your application fails.
You can download the free guide from the Migration Justice Project section of the Law Centre's website:
Failed asylum claims
If your asylum claim has not been successful it is important that you understand your rights and what next steps you can take:
Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their homes and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country. You can find out more on the UN's website at the following link:
The UK Government has a guide for refugees and other information about asylum and refugee status and eligibility:
Transitioning from an asylum seeker to person with refugee status can be challenging. The following link has advice and guidance to help you:
Organisations that can help
The following organisations offer advice and services to asylum seekers and refugees.
Law Centre NI
Law Centre NI offers free advice and helps people making applications to UK visas. It can also act for clients in appeals to the Immigration and Asylum tribunal and in cases to the High Court and Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.
Extern offers support and one to one advice for asylum seekers and refugees on a range of topics including the transition process and benefits.
Migrant Help offers independent advice and guidance to people seeking asylum in the UK. It has a free helpline and can help with applying for asylum support, reporting accommodation issues and advice on the asylum process.
Belfast City of Sanctuary
Belfast City of Sanctuary’s aim is the promote and build a culture of welcome and hospitality for people seeking sanctuary and a home in Belfast.
Barnardo's NI Refugee Support Service helps families and children. Help includes foster services for children and young people who arrive here on their own. There is also help for children get the healthcare and schooling they need while they are in the UK and giving parents practical support.
Bryson's Asylum Advice Service offers asylum seekers information and support for claiming asylum in Northern Ireland.
The British Red Cross
The British Red Cross provides services and support for refugees and people seeking asylum. This includes emergency help, one-to-one support and casework, special services for children and families, and family reunions.
The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY)
NICCY aims to safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people. If you wish to raise any issues or concerns that affect children and young people you can contact them using the following link:
Welcome Churches is a charity with a volunteer network of churches that offer support and community for refugees and people seeking asylum throughout the UK.
The Trussel Trust - food banks
You can find your local Trussell Trust food bank, their contact details and opening times at the following link:
You can also download a list of food banks in Northern Ireland from the Consumer Council website:
The Salvation Army - clothing banks
There are resettlement schemes that the UK government has sponsored to help with specific crisis.
- Supporting Ukraine
- Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme
- Afghan citizens resettlement scheme
- British Nationals (Overseas) Hong Kong residents
Services for refugees and/or asylum seekers
There are a number of services available to refugees and/or asylum seekers to help with education, health, housing and government benefits.
The following links have information for adult and young learners.
- English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)
- ESOL NI
- Essential Skills
- Getting a primary school place
Find out about the services and help available and to look after your physical and mental health.
- Your local doctor (GP)
- Types of dentists and your rights as a patient
- Physical activity
- Introduction to mental health
Find information to help you find a home.
Benefits for non-UK nationals
There is help through government benefits for people with ‘leave to remain’.
Reporting a crime
The following page has advice on how to report if you have been the victim of a crime and your rights. Reporting a crime if you need to is also considered a universal right and is applicable to both asylum seekers and refugees.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of modern slavery and exploitation there is help available to report your concerns.