Migrant workers 'fearful' after Brexit vote

Migrant workers are living in fear following the Brexit vote, a Northern Ireland community organisation said.

Immigrants faced more racist taunts like "your time is up" while struggling with uncertainty over their futures, the Community Intercultural Programme (CIP) added.

An EU-funded cross-border project entitled Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries, will be launched in Portadown, Co Armagh, on Tuesday.

CIP chief executive Stephen Smith said: "Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) workers are experiencing increased racism in the environment of fear created by the discourse around Brexit.

"Our project will counteract this."

He will be working with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland in the Republic, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Ulster University to promote migrant rights.

The project will support the labour market integration of BME workers in the agricultural, food processing and services sectors in Donegal/Derry, Cavan/Armagh and Monaghan/Newry-Down, securing their rights and conducting research.

Mr Smith said people became more uneasy about their status in Northern Ireland after the Brexit referendum and unsure whether they can continue to work and bring up children there.

He said Brexit-related racism was more verbal than physical.

"It is the verbals of people saying 'your time is up and you are going home'.

"The whole uncertainty and what is going to happen means it is like a vacuum.

"Different voices speak and that is having consequences for people who have been here a fair length of time and bought a house and are educating their children here.

"It is the vacuum and the lack of guarantees that is driving uncertainty."

The cross-border project received one million euro under the EU's PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

Match-funding has also been provided by Stormont's Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department for Rural and Community Affairs in Ireland.

MRCI director Edel McGinley said: "This is a new and innovative approach to cross-border cooperation that puts workers' rights at its heart.

"This project will tackle sectarianism, discrimination, racism and exploitation experienced by EU and non-EU migrants in precarious and insecure sectors of the labour market along the border region."

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