Racism ‘part of daily life’ for people in minority and migrant groups in North, report finds

Study shows women were particularly affected and there was a widespread perception Brexit had acted as an enabler for racism

Racism is “part of daily life” for people from minority ethnic and migrant groups in Northern Ireland, according to a new report commissioned by the North’s equality commission.

The study said women were particularly affected and there was a widespread perception Brexit had acted as an enabler for racism.

“There was a strong feeling amongst participants that Brexit has served to legitimise and enable racist attitudes and behaviour in Northern Ireland,” the report said.

However, in some areas the report’s authors found it was difficult to specifically identify the impact of Brexit.


The research commissioned by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland from the independent think-tank Pivotal examined the effects of Brexit on minority ethnic and migrant people in Northern Ireland.

According to the 2021 census 3.4 per cent of people in Northern Ireland are from ethnic minority groups – double that of 2011 – while the number of people living in the North who were born outside the UK and Ireland is at its highest ever level.

The Chief Commissioner for the Equality Commission, Geraldine McGahey, said the findings of the report and its ongoing work in the sector “make for uncomfortable truths.

“Our society appears to have developed an acceptable level of prejudice towards some ethnic minority and migrant people living here” and this was “unacceptable,” she said.

The report made 30 recommendations, including that the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive should “take steps to protect minority ethnic people and migrant workers, including asylum seekers and refugees, from racism, including institutional racism.”

Among the report’s other findings were that people from ethnic minority and migrant groups felt they were not a priority for government in Northern Ireland and the authorities were “not concerned” about racism.

They reported their rights and entitlements had become more complicated since Brexit and changes to immigration status for those from EU countries has created “uncertainty, insecurity and difficulty, and concerns were raised over crossing the Border and the position of cross-Border workers.

Ms McGahey said respondents also raised problems “with the EU Settlement Scheme process and their struggles to prove entitlement to access public services such as healthcare” and “concerns about insufficient government funding to address community need, limited government preparation for the impacts of Brexit, as well as what they see as institutional racism and racial profiling.

Stop-and-search powers by the PSNI were used “disproportionately” against people from an ethnic minority background, and there were reports of racial profiling at the Border, the report found.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times