Written evidence submitted by the Women’s Centre Derry (MEM0001)


27th April 2021




Call for Evidence



WOMEN’S CENTRE DERRY provides a safe, secure, environment for women and children, aimed at supporting them to achieve their full potential.

Our aims are primarily to combat poverty and promote prosperity in disadvantaged communities through a feminist model of empowerment and education.

We do this by providing educational and other development opportunities for women and children and providing onsite childcare.

In everything we do we strive to:

Deliver the highest quality person centred services which address the needs of women and children who live in disadvantaged and marginalised communities;

Engage with respect, maintaining confidentiality and building trust;

Provide a warm and friendly space where women and children are welcomed, empowered and valued.

The Centre has a number of key advantages:  its educational provision, which it delivers to large numbers of women from many of the key social exclusion demographics; its track record in terms of its advocacy for women’s' rights; the fact that it is a women-only space; its fully-supervised, professional child care service, on-site for all of those women undertaking programmes at the centre.


Reason for submitting evidence

We have worked to support Syrian Refugee women and families over the past 5 years and have become acutely aware of their struggles and challenges as they settle in to life in Derry. The New Enquiry Call for Evidence is an opportunity to tell what we know of their situation and the obstacles they encounter as regards building a decent quality of life in our communities, integrating and contributing through social and economic inclusion.



Our Response:

Since March 2020 the UK hasn’t welcomed a single person through its resettlement programme – the safest route to escaping war and rebuilding lives. That was understandable at the start of the coronavirus crisis, when flights were grounded and it was deemed unsafe to travel abroad. However, air travel for summer holidays is now allowed, and removal flights are happening too. There are no reasons why life-saving flights cannot resume.


The experiences of minority ethnic and migrant people living in Northern Ireland;

Experiences of minority ethnic and migrant people in NI varies in terms of the location where they have settled and the circumstances by which they have come to resettle in Northern Ireland. The Syrian Refugee families who have been resettled  as part of the NIRRS/VPRS scheme will have a different experience to the families who come to work in NHS or study in universities.

The families that Women’s Centre Derry are mostly engaged with are NIRRS/VPRS refugee families and I will refer mostly to them in this paper.


The challenges that minority ethnic and migrant people face in Northern Ireland

Welcoming families has not been given due care and attention.

Poor standards of welcoming families into empty houses with old bedding and No Tea Pot, Delph or Cutlery. Blankets described by one refugee women with 2 small children as

“Thin, grey blankets with holes, like prison blankets, stained mattress.”

Houses are Temporary, Private, old stock, poor condition, in disrepair.

Communication between families and NIHE totally inadequate. No attempts during the Pandemic to support the families in a meaningful way.

Learning English:

Lack of access to Regular English classes by qualified teachers.

Families are in poverty and generally use charity shops for clothing and furniture. They have received food boxes during pandemic but these were poor quality and didn’t contain Halal food.

Nursery/Primary/Secondary/University - Not enough or No Extra help within Schools.

Parents unable to help children as they can’t speak English themselves. Therefore, the children who have no extra support in school have no adequate support at home either.

NB It was pointed out that, given limited education, some of the Syrian families cannot read or write Arabic. Providing Arabic classes could be useful.


Inadequate or No Access to employment, apprenticeships, support, employment Schemes

Too many issues and not enough time for one Key worker.

Lack of access and no free choice, Telephone services not good enough.

Inadequate interpreting service in NW. Refugee families are dissatisfied with the interpreting services.

To do the essential support work with the families. Community Groups who are actually providing the support need to be on the VPRS Consortium.

Months spent trying to communicate with UNHCR.

Equal Freedom to Travel:

No access to Republic of Ireland and therefore unable to travel to meet Syrian friends and family just over the border

This is completely inadequate especially in NW. All centred in Belfast, hard to access , difficult to understand and no real support to orientate the system.


Not enough opportunities to integrate families and the Pandemic has accentuated the problem.

The steps the UK Government can take to help ensure effective racial equality legislation in Northern Ireland;







The health and economic outcomes of minority ethnic and migrant people in Northern Ireland, and the steps the UK Government can take to help improve them;


The health and economic outcomes:

Steps the UK Government can take to help improve them;



Successful initiatives and programmes to encourage cultural exchange and diversity among people in Northern Ireland;

Women’s  Centre Derry delivers a successful initiative to engage Syrian Refugee families. Our Centre empowers and enables women to return to  education in a safe and motivating environment. This is supplemented with free on site creche facilities for 0-4 year olds.

BAME women engage in integrated Multi-cultural events and activities, for example this Human Rights project illustrated below was completed just before the lockdown in 2020.


Sew Your Rights”


We deliver informal conversational English Classes supported with childcare to open up access for women. We deliver a Children’s  Advocacy project to address the disproportionate disadvantages endured by BAME children as a result of the COVID 19 emergency.

Working from a feminist ethos and model of delivery Women Centre Derry is unique in addressing the needs of Minority Ethnic women, supporting them to gain the skills and confidence to navigate the systems in Northern Ireland. Within our Centre women from minority ethnic communities are integrated into education programmes and signposted to community services. They have access to one-one support and they in return bring their wonderful talents & qualities, their diversity & cultural riches to us.


April 2021