Stop blaming migrants, says bishop

28 March 2013

PA

Tough talk: the Prime Minister gives a speech on immigration at the University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich, on Monday.

Tough talk: the Prime Minister gives a speech on immigration at the University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich, on Monday.

THE Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd David Walker, accused politicians this week of "scapegoating" migrants, and called for a more "evidence-based" debate about immigration.

On Monday, the Prime Minister said in a speech that "net migration" needed to be reduced "from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands". He said that migrants who had been in the UK for longer than six months would be prevented from claiming benefits "unless they can demonstrate they have actively sought work", and councils would be required "to introduce a local residency test in determining who should qualify for social housing".

Bishop Walker told The Observer  on Sunday that "public fears around immigration are like fears around crime. They bear little relationship to actual reality. . . Studies show that the vast majority of new arrivals to the UK enhance and enrich our society." 

Speaking on Monday, Bishop Walker (right) said: "Back in the original Holy Week, Jesus was made a scapegoat by the powers that be. Whenever we put the blame and pile sin or fault on somebody whose responsibility it isn't, we're making them the scapegoat."

Bishop Walker, who used to be on the board of the National Housing Federation and is a former chairman of the Christian charity Housing Justice, said that migrants were not to blame for "housing shortages" or for "long queues at hospitals".

He continued: "The reason we've got long waiting-lists for council housing is because we've not built enough over a very long period of time. . . Out of every 1000 social-housing tenants, only 18 are people who've moved into the UK over the last five years or so."

The evidence was that "migrants have helped grow the economy. . . Almost from day one, the vast majority are contributing positively to the wealth of the country."

Question of the week:  Is the Government right to target welfare benefits for immigrants?

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