Skip to main content
In order to provide complete functionality, this web site needs your explicit consent to store browser cookies. If you don't allow cookies, you may not be able to use certain features of the web site including but not limited to: log in, buy products, see personalized content, switch between site cultures. It is recommended that you allow all cookies.
How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.

Racial equality

Policy Priorities and Recommendations for Racial Equality

Racial equality logo
The Equality Commission, in its race equality policy paper, highlights the need to combat prejudicial attitudes and to develop robust and reliable statistical information to better target and monitor key policies and actions.

There is also an urgent need for legislative reform to strengthen the rights of individuals in Northern Ireland against racial discrimination and harassment and ensure the law meets best international standards. Support us in our calls for stronger protections against racial discrimination – for more information on our race law reform proposals see our race law reform webpage.

Key recommendations

We recommend that the NI Executive, Departments and other key stakeholders take priority action in the following areas, including via the proposed Racial Equality Strategy (RES):

  • Reform of the law, to address key shortfalls in legal protections
  • Tackling Prejudicial Attitudes, Racism and Hate Crime
  • Ensuring equality of opportunity in education, employment, accommodation, healthcare and access to social welfare
  • Ensuring effective monitoring and evaluation, supported by robust data collection
We also highlight the importance of taking account of multiple identities and the importance of the appropriate development and implementation of a revised Racial Equality Strategy.


Download our race policy positions (pdfs):


Read more about our race law reform recommendations at:


NI Affairs Committee inquiry into experiences of minority ethnic and migrant people in Northern Ireland

The Equality Commission welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the Inquiry by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee into the experiences of minority ethnic and migrant people in Northern Ireland. In particular, we highlighted the importance of law reform, tackling prejudicial attitudes and effective monitoring and evaluation, supported by robust data collection.

We recommend that the NI Executive, Departments and other key stakeholders take action including via the Racial Equality Strategy 2015-2025.


Currently there is no political representation in terms of ethnic minorities in the NI Assembly


Commission response to OFMdFM Racial Equality Strategy

The Commission calls for a strengthened Racial Equality Strategy (RES) to include a proper assessment of racial inequalities, an action plan supported by resources to address these and clear evidence of high level commitment to drive implementation.

For full details download the Commission’s response to OFMdFM's consultation:


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

2016 Concluding Observations by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
In August 2016, the CERD Committee published its
 Concluding Observations on the UK (pdf). Several of its observations and recommendations specifically referenced Northern Ireland and echoed the concerns raised by the Commission as part of our engagement with the Committee. For example, the Committee:

  • called on the Executive to adopt ‘comprehensive’ anti-discrimination legislation ‘without further delay’
  • raised concerns that data is not collected systematically in all fields ‘most notably in Northern Ireland’ and called on the Executive to publish disaggregated data on the enjoyment of rights by members of ethnic minorities and monitor the impact of its actions
  • called on the UK State Party to adopting a detailed action plan with concrete targets, monitoring mechanisms and sufficient resources
  • called on Government to take forward a range of actions to address issues of underreporting and tackle racist hate crime and racist hate speech
  • raised concerns that the situation of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma has ‘not substantially improved’ and called for Government to develop a comprehensive Strategy in consultation with these communities.

2016 Examination: Equality Commission Proposals to UNCERD Committee ‘List of Themes’
In June the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination published a
list of themes (pdf) which highlights topics it particularly wants to discuss with representatives of the UK Government during formal examination of the UK State Party on 4/5 August 2016. For further information see the Equality Commission's:

2011 Examination: Shadow Report
The Equality Commission’s shadow report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination identified a number of critical issues of the UK's compliance with respect to the following key articles of the Convention:


  • Review and amendment of Government policy (Article 2.1c)
  • Economic, social and cultural rights (Article 5e)
  • Combating prejudices which lead to discrimination and promoting tolerance in education, teaching, culture and information (Article 7)

For further information see the Commission’s full reports:


Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

The Equality Commission has made its submission to the Council of Europe's 4th Monitoring Report for the UK - Advisory Committee for the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM)
Additional information:

European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

We have published our submission to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) sixth monitoring cycle report. In our response we specifically focus on issues aligned to our remit which have been identified by ECRI as common topics for this cycle: ethnic minority and LGBTQI+ communities, including equality law reform, hate crime, and the need for effective strategies.

With respect to the specific focus of sixth cycle monitoring, the Committee may wish to consider recommending, via the UK State Party as appropriate:


  • that the NI Executive produce equality strategies which convey leadership and gives effect to Equality Commission’s published recommendations for Racial, Sexual Orientation and Transgender Equality;
  • that the NI Executive develop a Refugee Integration Strategy and Strategies for Travellers and Roma which take account of the published recommendations of the Equality Commission; and these individual targeted strategies should nest within or be considered a sub-set of an overarching (mainstreaming) Racial Equality Strategy;
  • with regards to hate crime, actions in Northern Ireland to address under-reporting and support for victims; reviewing the legal framework for addressing racist violence; improving the accessibility of reporting for those for whom English is an additional language; improving minority representation in police and criminal justice staff; and co-ordinating action to address institutional racism;
  • That equality protections are strengthened, harmonised and updated through single equality legislation, which meets best international practice, aligned with the Commission’s recommendations;
  • In the absence of single equality legislation, urgent reform of race, sex, and sexual orientation legislation is undertaken to give effect to the published recommendations of the Equality Commission.

For a full list of our recommendations, see Annex 1 of our response to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) - sixth monitoring cycle review of the UK (pdf, June 2023)

Related information



Prosecutions brought for racist hate crime


Refugee and Asylum Forum – welcoming Syrian refugees

The Equality Commission NI is a member of the Refugee and Asylum Forum, an informal network of organisations with direct experience of providing support and services to asylum seekers and refugees in Belfast. The forum expresses full support for NI offering refuge to Syrian refugees through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPR). This is an essential humanitarian gesture in the context of unprecedented displacement and mass suffering.

The Forum has identified five key actions that can be delivered by the NI Executive that would considerably improve the situation for existing asylum seekers and refugees; help smooth the process of integration for VPR Syrian refugees and ease demand on refugee support organisations:

  • a Refugee Integration Strategy for Northern Ireland
  • a long-term commitment to funding refugee settlement
  • a mechanism to ensure no person experiences destitution on being granted refugee status
  • all refugees have access to free, accredited English language classes
  • work with the refugee support sector to design a Syrian VPR resettlement scheme

These key actions are broadly consistent with the recommendations of the Commission’s Racial Equality Policy Priorities and Recommendations (see above). Read more about the five key actions


Race related issues

Tackling prejudicial attitudes and racism

Research has highlighted the persistence of negative attitudes towards BME groups and migrant workers; lack of participation in public life; and under-reporting of hate crime.

Equality Commission recommendations:

  • actions to tackle prejudicial attitudes
  • to tackle racial violence and improve reporting
  • to promote values of acceptance and respect so as to improve good relations
  • increase representation in public life


Race issues in education

The Commission has long been concerned about bullying, nonattendance, drop-out rates and poor educational outcomes experienced by Irish Travellers. The Commission is also aware that Newcomer, Roma or refugee learners can also encounter similar difficulties.

Equality Commission recommendations:

  • cultures and language of learners are reflected in the curriculum
  • barriers to participation and progression are identified and addressed
  • targeted strategies and training are used to progress key issues such as bullying; and that relevant data is collected, and evaluation of progress undertaken


Race issues in employment

In addition to harassment at work, research suggests that key issues include lack of recognition of culture; concentration in low grade, low paid employment; low expectations; recognition of qualifications, lack of English language skills, problems in accessing childcare, gaps in legal protection, exploitation and forced labour.

Equality Commission recommendations:

  • ratification of the Migrant Workers Convention and the extension of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004
  • targeted initiatives to maximise participation in employment and training
  • to ensure access to appropriate employment support (including childcare and ESOL)
  • to tackle exploitation, and to address gaps in employment rights


Race issues in accommodation and housing

An undersupply of appropriate accommodation for Travellers, insecurity of tenure and overcrowding for migrants remain key issues. Issues for refugees also include a lack of time to find suitable alternative housing and difficulties in providing deposits or a suitable guarantor.

Equality Commission recommendations:

  • the establishment of a multi-agency Taskforce on Traveller accommodation
  • specific measures to address the housing needs of migrants
  • accessible information and training for relevant front-line staff on the entitlements of EU Migrants
  • a coordinated strategic policy response to the needs of all asylum seekers and refugees


Race issues in health

Poor life expectancy and high levels of suicide persist for the Irish Traveller community. Maternal and infant mortality is also an issue for some BME groups. There are also concerns about poor health outcomes for the Roma community.

Equality Commission recommendations:

  • co-ordinated actions to monitor (including collection of relevant data) and address the key health inequalities amongst BME, newcomer and Traveller populations, to ensure measurable improvements in health outcomes; that barriers to access are addressed and that relevant training is provided to service providers
  • targeted actions to address the needs of BME groups, including asylum seekers and refugees


Social welfare restrictions on migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers

Migrant Workers experience restrictions to benefits because of residence rules and may have more limited access to advice. Asylum Seekers and Refugees have similar issues with regards to accessing advice and support.

Equality Commission recommendations:

  • the Executive ensures that welfare reform changes are compatible with EU and Human Rights law
  • action to address key barriers to accessing benefits so as to ensure appropriate support; clear guidance and support; and that OFMDFM takes appropriate steps to ensure the long term sustainability of the Emergency fund for destitute migrants

Multiple Identities

  • We recommend particular attention be paid to addressing multiple identities within the delivery of public services and associated strategies.

Ethnic Monitoring
Research has noted the current absence of robust, reliable statistical or administrative analysis and significant gaps in the knowledge base.


Equality Commission recommendations:

  • public authorities ensure effective monitoring systems are in place to ensure effective policy development and service delivery.

Recent press releases, articles and blogs

All of the Equality Commission's race related press releases, articles and blogs are available online

Recent legal cases



Strengthen race equality legislation, adopt and implement action plans, tackle prejudicial attitudes and racial violence to promote values of acceptance


International Mechanisms
We continue to engage with international human rights bodies to advance key policy priorities and recommendations for racial equality in Northern Ireland. See a summary of this work

Programme for Government
The Equality Commission has set out its recommendations in relation to the next Programme for Government (PfG) and Budget of the NI Executive.  We have highlighted the need for a clear commitment in the PfG to address key inequalities experienced by S75 groups, underpinned by robust measures, as well as a commitment to promote good relations.

< Addressing inequality

Race related research

Inequalities in education: facts and trends 1998-2008

This report presented the latest educational data relevant to the Equality Commission’s ‘Statement on Key Inequalities in Northern Ireland’ and compared it to data from ten years before. Over the aggregate period 2003/4 - 2007/8:


  • There has been a noticeable gap between the highest education attainment and destinations of Irish Traveller and non-Traveller school leavers
  • The majority of Irish Travellers left school with no GCSEs, while the majority of non-Travellers left school with GCSE or higher qualifications
  • The most common intended non-employment destination for Irish Travellers leaving school was unemployment, while the most common intended destination for non-Travellers was Higher Education.
  • Furthermore, in the aggregated time-period examined, zero percent of Irish Travellers indicated they intended to continue on to Higher Education.

Download the research report:

Employment inequalities in an economic downturn

The main aim of this research was to update understanding on the effects of the economic downturn on the employment status and prospects of relevant groups across the relevant equality grounds of age, gender, disability, Black and Ethnic Minorities (BME) and migrant workers, dependents, community background, sexual orientation and marital status) in Northern Ireland.


Role of the recruitment sector in the employment of migrant workers

In 2008 the Equality Commission began a formal investigation into the role of the recruitment sector in the
recruitment and employment of migrant workers in Northern Ireland.

Read the Commission's full report:

Equality awareness survey

A Question of Attitude (2018)
Question of AttitudeWe asked respondents a series of 'social distance' questions to assess public attitudes towards ten equality groups. The scenarios explored how comfortable people felt with varying degrees of closeness to a member of a 'different' group. Respondents were asked whether they 'would mind' or 'would not mind' having a member of each group as a work colleague, a neighbour or if one of the group members were to marry a close relative.

Do You Mean Me? (2011)
Do you mean me?The Commission's equality awareness survey 'Do You Mean Me?' includes social attitudes in Northern Ireland on a number of equality grounds, including race.

Travellers attracted the most negative attitudes


< Race Equality Race Publications >
Race Legislation >
Publications relating to race equality
Policy priorities and recommendations:

Recommendations for Law Reform:


Reports to the UN


Guides and codes of practice


Research publications


Translated publications


Consultation responses

Recent consultation responses relating to Race:
All consultation responses are available in our main consultation responses search page

  • Additional race related publications are available online


< Race Equality Race Research >
Race Legislation >
Race equality legislation

The Law
Equality and anti-discrimination law may be changed or updated. The law is also complex and can require interpretation. Please contact our discrimination advice team if you need clarification or guidance on what the law means. Email: or tel: 028 90 500 600.

Main law


• Race Relations (NI) Order 1997
(this link is to the revised version of the statute that incorporates all of the several amendments that were made over the years up to and including 2009)

Amending law


Search our database of decisions and settlements for all resolved race discrimination cases


< Race Equality Race Research >
Race Publications >
Print All