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Mid and East Antrim’s Ukraine Assistance Centre has been ‘crucial’ for refugees

Twenty-five refugees are being hosted in Mid and East Antrim, UK Government figures show.

Of the 106 visa applications for travel to the borough, 93 have been issued.

In neighbouring Antrim and Newtownabbey, 54 visas have been issued of 76 applications for travel. There have been 19 arrivals in the borough from the Ukraine.

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According to the UK Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, there have been 1,125 visa applications in Northern Ireland overall with 947 issued and 211 arrivals.

The Braid, Ballymena

However, the Department says that there is a “known under-count in Northern Ireland”.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council officers have reported that the Ukraine Assistance Centre at The Braid in Ballymena has provided advice and services to 300 individuals to date, including 95 host and potential host families.

Twelve council staff have been deployed to work in the Ukraine Assistance Centre which has been operating weekly on Thursdays since April 14. A number of statutory and non-statutory representatives are also in attendance.

The report said: “The centre has been crucial over the past number of weeks to help Ukrainian refugees settle in the local area and provide support to the host families.”

Advice is provided on key services: immigration; health; education; jobs; benefits and housing. An interpreter is available.

Councillors also heard that this “one-stop shop for advice and services for both Ukrainians and host families has proved very beneficial to date”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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