STORMONT’s refugee integration strategy is likely to be “ambiguous, impractical and ineffectual”, including in the area of elite sport, unless the “no work permit” barrier is removed for refugees. asylum seekers.
This is the view of Adekanmi Abayomi, founder and chairman of EMSONI, the sports organization for ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland, who notes that many such talented people are prevented “from reaching their full potential by as professional athletes.
“Kanmi” explains, “Full potential differs depending on an individual’s possibilities and aspirations. Some asylum seekers will be fully accomplished, being sports journalists, while others aspire to become professional footballers, boxers or even coaches.
“Asylum seekers cannot currently participate in elite sports, either as athletes or coaches, which prevents them from reaching their full potential as professional sportspeople.
“Many asylum seekers are so talented that they should play sports or be professional coaches, but they cannot, even as volunteers, due to the ‘no work permit’ policy of the Ministry of the Interior.
“For example, the Irish Football Association, as the governing body, will only register players with permission to work or a Tier 2 visa. Although some asylum seekers are permitted to work in certain areas specific, sport is not included.
“A massive campaign is underway in the UK, lobbying the UK government to allow asylum seekers to work in all areas of the UK, while EMSONI is currently campaigning for asylum seekers be allowed to voluntarily participate in elite sports.”
The consultation on the draft Refugee Integration Strategy 2022-2027 recently launched by the Executive Office (TEO), which ended on February 21 this year, gave interested parties and the public an opportunity to review this policy, particularly from an implementation perspective.
The essence of the refugee integration strategy is to provide this framework for the government to help refugees and asylum seekers, including those involved in sport, achieve their full potential in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Abayomi comments: “This policy is certainly well articulated, with a strong intention to integrate refugees and asylum seekers into the system. But I am of the opinion that TEO needs to understand the limits of its power in this regard so that the implementation goes smoothly, although I understand the government’s desire to ensure that asylum seekers build a new life here in Northern Ireland.
“In 1998, under the Good Friday Agreement, certain powers were transferred from Westminster to Stormont – meaning that Stormont will be responsible for policy in certain areas – including agriculture, forestry and fisheries , education, environment, health, housing, justice, police and courts, local government, taxes including income tax, stamp duty and passenger duty aviation, and welfare and transport, but with some exceptions.
“Obviously the UK government at Westminster remains responsible for immigration policy, including the asylum system under the supervision of the Home Office.
“With this reality, the question is – how would this refugee integration strategy help asylum seekers realize their full potential when sponsors lack the political power to change the status quo?
“Helping asylum seekers reach their full sporting potential – will require the removal of some systemic barriers, for example the ‘no work permit’ policy, and Stormont does not have the power to legislate on this matter.
“According to Lord Denning, in UAC V. MCFOY (1962) AC 152, ‘you can’t put something on nothing and expect it to stay’,
EMSONI Founder Highlights Other Limitations in NI: “Two asylum seekers are awarded scholarships each year to study undergraduate and postgraduate programs at Queen’s University Belfast – but due to their ‘ineligibility at work,” they are exempt from participating in the university’s free leadership development programs, designed to add more value to students.
“From the above, the current system will limit the implementation of the refugee integration strategy as politics lacks the political power to affect the full potential of asylum seekers in Northern Ireland.
“Since nothing can stand on anything, therefore, the aim of the refugee integration strategy to realize the full potential of asylum seekers would be seen as ambiguous, unachievable and ineffective in practical terms.
“I recognize that considerable and judicious time has been spent in drafting this policy and for this effort to be well judged, I will implore TEO to get it right at this preliminary stage as we have waited too long for this Politics.”
* Adekanmi Abayomi is a volunteer with EMSONI – NI Ethnic Minority Sports Organization.