Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership

As the nature and scale of migration to Northern Ireland has changed in the last decade, various bodies around the region have responded to collect information on the changing demography. NISMP is undertaking a project to work with current information providers to collate and consolidate data on migrants and migration specific to Northern Ireland.

There is no single agreed definition for the word 'migrant'.  Its meaning varies from survey to survey, policy to policy and even, on occasion, within the same public debate.  At times it is taken to mean anyone who was born abroad; at others it refers to foreign nationals; and at yet others it means anyone who has changed their usual country of residence for a period of at least a year.  The lack of consistency in its use is problematic, both in terms of informing public debate as well as in policy formulation, as each interpretation will present a different picture of the numbers and impact of migration. 

There are also categories of migrant that are often either conflated or carefully separated out when the issue of migration is under the spotlight.  Depending on the speaker or the topic, asylum seekers, refugees, highly skilled non-EU migrants, EU migrants, family members and international students may or may not be included under the term 'migrant'.  In some debates migration may also refer to internal migration, whether that be movement from rural to urban areas, or, as is the case in the UK, across country borders while still remaining in the UK.  In the case of Northern Ireland there is a further question as to whether Irish citizens who have moved up over the border should be included in discussions around migration.  

The Migration Observatory gives a clear overview of the different ways in which 'migrant' can be understood and the implications of using different definitions in its briefing, 'Who Counts as a Migrant? Definitions and Consequences'.  


Demographic trends in the UK

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes a quarterly statistical bulletin on immigration to the UK and emigration from the UK, including net migration.  For the latest report please click here.

The Home Office has produced a user's guide to migration statistics, designed to be a useful reference guide on the issues and classifications used in the ONS quarterly statistical bulletin.  


Demographic trends in Northern Ireland 

NISRA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency) publishes an annual statistical bulletin on population and migration estimates and an annual statistical bulletin on long-term international migration statistics.

NISMP has produced a series of Community Profiles for Local Government Districts, designed to support councils in Northern Ireland to better understand the ethnic diversity within new local government boundaries, to better engage with migrant and minority ethnic communities, and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations.  Using figures collated principally from NISRA data sets, the profiles give an indication of migration flows into and out of the area over time.  This includes nationalities represented, the level of economic activity of migrant and minority ethnic communities, their needs in relation to public services and housing, as well as levels of hate crime.  

Department for Work and Pensions publishes statistics on national insurance number (NIN0) allocations to adult overseas nationals.  These are disaggregated down to region and local authority.

NINIS (Northern Ireland Neighbourhood Information Service) publishes annual statistics relating to health card registrations and deregistrations by non-UK nationals. 

Census 2011 data provides further useful information on demographic trends in Northern Ireland.



Asylum Seekers and Refugees

An asylum seeker is someone who is fleeing persecution in their own country.  Asylum seekers are allowed to remain in the UK legally while their application is being considered, but they are generally not allowed to work while waiting a decision on their case.  A refugee refers to someone whose application for asylum has been accepted.

If judged to be at risk of destitution, asylum seekers may be eligible for assistance from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS), managed by the Home Office.  The key provisions relating to support for asylum seekers are outlined within the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

 While an asylum application is being considered, an asylum seeker may be eligible for accommodation and/or subsistence.  This is knows as Section 95 support.  Section 98 support provides short term accommodation and meets basic needs and may be made available to asylum seekers whose eligibility for Section 95 is being considered.  Asylum seekers who have had their asylum claim refused and who satisfy conditions may be eligible for Section 4 support.

Statistics for the number of asylum seekers in Northern Ireland are only available in relation to those who are in receipt of Section 95 support.  These can be accessed here.



Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership