Minority Rights Now

RightsNI is delighted to welcome this guest post by Elizabeth Nelson. Elizabeth Nelson is the Parliamentary and Campaigns Officer at the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), an NGO working for human rights and racial equality across Northern Ireland. Her role includes coordination of the NI Assembly’s All Party Group on Ethnic Minority Communities, as well as lobbying government officials and politicians on issue of concern for black and minority ethnic communities, and coordinating NICEM’s media and communication efforts, including the quarterly policy magazine ‘Minority Rights Now.’ She completed her Master’s in Human Rights Law at Queen’s University Belfast.


“As budgets tighten, we are seeing austerity measures that discriminate against migrant workers, xenophobic rhetoric that encourages violence against irregular migrants, and proposed immigration laws that allow the police to profile migrants with impunity. During economic downturns, it is worth remembering that whole sectors of the economy depend on migrant workers and migrant entrepreneurs help to create jobs.”


Ban Ki-moon
Message for International Migrants Day,
18 December 2012

 ‘Minority Rights Now,’ the policy magazine of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, was officially re-launched this Tuesday, International Migrants Day. Drawing on a wide variety of knowledge and experience from both its staff and its expert Editorial Board, MRN will be exploring issues that impact on the daily lives of migrants and black and minority ethnic communities in Northern Ireland.

This is the seventh edition of the quarterly magazine, which has a dual remit:

  • To communicate complex policy and legal issues affecting ethnic minorities to local communities;
  • To communicate to politicians and key decision makers how their policies and actions impact local communities, and what it is that BME communities themselves want to see from their representatives.

The Winter 2012/13 edition focuses on the issue of agency workers, and examines whether the recent developments in the law and policy around it offer adequate protections, or whether they are still falling through the gaps.

Racism and exploitation are still huge problems for migrant agency workers, despite the Agency Worker Regulations, which came into force in December 2011. The regulations do not cover workers who come through agencies based outside the UK; this is of particular issue for Filipino fishermen, who come to work on vessels off the coast of Ireland.

Workers whose visas are tied to their employer are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse. If they complain or report an employer, they risk losing not only their jobs, but their right to remain in the UK as well. This means that we are likely seeing only the tip of the iceberg in terms of reports of racist abuse and exploitation of migrant agency workers, something which is examined in more depth in the magazine by Simon Cox, a migration lawyer for the Open Society Justice Initiative.

But MRN focuses not just exploring complex policy areas, but also on how these issues are impacting groups on the ground, in order to affect decisions taken at the highest levels. Ricardo Serrada, chair of the Balmoral Filipino Community Association, gives an overview of his group’s work, and how the agency worker issue has affected the Filipino community. Karen McLaughlin, NICEM’s legal policy officer, gives an overview of the rights of agency workers, while I explore the relationship between migrant workers and trade unions.

The rights of agency workers is still a key issue for migrant workers, trade unions and human rights activists, and we hope that this edition of MRN will contribute something useful to the debate.

Future issues will cover race and the criminal justice system; access to health; human trafficking; and the experiences of BME women.

Feedback is very welcome. You can engage with the issues covered in the magazine and start discussions on our blog: http://minorityrightsnow.wordpress.com, or you can get in touch by emailing me on Elizabeth@nicem.org.uk