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The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) have become the latest rights institutions to express concern about the ongoing failure by the NI Executive to tackle religious inequality in North Belfast housing.

Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, called for urgent action to tackle Belfast’s housing crisis after meeting the Equality Can’t Wait residents group on 10th September. The Commissioner’s statement followed a visit by members of a UN Task Force to Northern Ireland to assess children’s rights in a number of areas. 

           

The Commissioner’s statement in full is reprinted below:

 “I was disturbed and distressed to find so many families living in unsuitable accommodation,” said the Commissioner. “Too many children are living in conditions that are not suitable and are not appropriate.

“Levels of homelessness and families living in hostels should not be happening in Northern Ireland in 2015.”

 “It is apparent that too many residents in the area are not receiving equal access to housing,” she said. “It must not be about where you live, it’s about a child’s right to safe, appropriate housing, that provides access to services and access to safe play.

“Too many children are being denied these rights. We need urgent action to provide adequate housing, eradication of homelessness and a strategic vision to meet the housing needs for every family in Belfast no matter where they live or their background."

Drawing specific attention to the urgent need to tackle religious inequality in North Belfast, the Commissioner said;

“There have been a series of international recommendations from the Office of the High Commission on Human Rights which have clearly called for additional efforts to overcome inequalities in housing in North Belfast – these recommendations can no longer be ignored and must become a reality.”

In mid September, the Human Rights Commission raised a similar concern in its Parallel Report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in advance of the Committee’s examination of the United Kingdom.

The Human Rights Commission suggest that the Committee ask the State Party;

 “...what targeted, concrete and deliberate measures it is undertaking to address the lack of provision of social housing, including in particular for Catholics in North Belfast”

 

NICCY and the NIHRC join a growing list of rights bodies which have expressed concern about the inequality in housing which impacts the Catholic community in North Belfast.

 

In 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnik issued a report which called for “concerted efforts” to be made to tackle inequality in housing. In 2012, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg expressed “disappointment” that no action had been taken to address concerns made by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which in 2009 which drew attention to “the chronic shortage of housing” for Catholics in north Belfast.