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The Churches and the Immigration Bill

by
28 February 2014

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From the Very Revd Nicholas Coulton

Sir, - The article by Sarah Teather MP on the defects of the Immigration Bill (Comment, 14 Feb) may come as a surprise to some members of Anglican congregations, but not to the many churchpeople around the country who have for a decade or so been struggling to help those desperate for asylum to find a way through the inadequacies of the UK justice system, and the many cruelties perpetrated by the UK Border Agency and its private-sector contractors.

Ms Teather is one of the few MPs who have wrestled in detail with the Bill: the Commons Third Reading focus on foreign-born criminals meant that much of the Bill was not considered there.

She correctly spells out many of the flaws in this badly drafted Bill, which, with its limitations on access to housing, health care, bank accounts, and driving licences, as the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, said at its Second Reading in the Lords, will not just police a border around our country, but will erect many new boundaries within our society, institutionalising social exclusion in law.

Whether or not the Immigration Bill is amended, there will remain much for Christians to care about.

Members of all Churches who are concerned for refugees and those seeking sanctuary will be gathering in Sheffield on Saturday 5 April for the annual conference of the Churches' Refugee Network, a national ecumenical group working under the auspices of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

The proposed new chair for CRN is the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, in whose episcopal area is Lunar House, the immigration HQ of UKBA. The title of the conference, "Under the Radar: What Room for Refugees?" points to the hotly debated topic that immigration is becoming in the run-up to May's Euro-elections, but there will also be detailed workshops on destitution, housing, health, campaigning, and legal matters.

The keynote speakers are Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA GP Committee, and Ruth Grove-White, policy director of the Migrants' Rights Network. Details and booking form are available from wendy.cooper@urc.org.uk. All are welcome, especially refugees and asylum-seekers.

NICHOLAS COULTON
The Churches' Refugee Network
123 Merewood Avenue
Oxford OX3 8EQ

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