Belfast is welcoming refugees with a radical new approach: speaking to them

Stephanie Mitchell - 29 August 2018

We’re having different conversations about immigration, race and community. They are successful, and fun, and they could change the world.

In 2004, Belfast was rocked by a series of unprovoked racist attacks on its Filipino community, a significant proportion of whom worked in the city’s hospitals. At the time, misinformation about immigration, sensationalised by tabloids, was rife. In a population still reeling from decades of civil conflict, mistrust of minorities remained close to the surface. In response to these divisions, a large group of civil society organisations and charities gradually came together and, in 2009, started the Belfast Friendship Club, a safe space for people to meet and build relationships. It was aimed, primarily, at anyone new to the city for any reason, but also welcomed locals who now make up almost a quarter of the membership. And it has flourished ever since.

Belfast Friendship Club meets every Thursday evening, and over the months and years meaningful connections and friendships have been forged, irrespective of our backgrounds or identities. The club’s strength arises from an ethos of solidarity, equity, respect and the huge, loyal and expanding membership draws newcomers into its warm and welcoming space.... See more

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