Northern Ireland

Refugees in Northern Ireland offered free English lessons

Syrian refugees walk along a train track Image copyright Muhammed Muheisen
Image caption English lessons will be offered to all of those with refugee status in Northern Ireland

Refugees in Northern Ireland will be offered free English lessons, a Stormont minister has said.

Fifty-one Syrian refugees arrived in Belfast last month under a government scheme, having been deemed as being at "real risk" in their home country.

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry said language classes would help people settling in Northern Ireland to "integrate into society".

The lessons are expected to cost about £20,000 each year.

A second group of refugees is expected to arrive in Northern Ireland before April, and they will be settled in Londonderry.

Disadvantaged

The lessons will be provided at further education colleges, but would not apply to economic migrants.

Mr Farry said it was in the "public interest" to help refugees settling in Northern Ireland.

"The measures ensure that no one who comes to Northern Ireland seeking refuge from persecution or war is disadvantaged simply because of their immigration status," he added.

He said the lessons would be offered to all people in Northern Ireland with refugee status.

"Analysis indicates that demand for provision is relatively small so any additional costs will be affordable within the department's budget."

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