THE Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed concern over the Government’s refugee policy, which, he says, risks discriminating against Christians who are facing persecution in Syria.
In a private meeting with the Prime Minister on Monday, Archbishop Welby warned that Christians were likely to be excluded from the 20,000 refugees who were scheduled to come to the UK in the next five years, because of Mr Cameron’s decision to take refugees directly from UN camps in Syria and bordering countries. Many Syrian Christians avoided the camps for fear of religious persecution.
Although EU policy prevents the Government from discriminating in favour of any one religious group, Archbishop Welby said that drawing refugees from these camps would lead to the same offence.
In a speech in the House of Lords on Monday, Archbishop Welby said that the Christian population had been "forced to flee" the camps, out of fear of "intimidation and radicalisation" from rogue Islamist groups.
The former Archbishop Lord Carey wrote in The Daily Telegraph last week that the Government had "yet again" left Christians "at the bottom of the heap" by neglecting those taking refuge elsewhere.
Also last week, an alliance of 14 faith groups appealed to governments around the world to acknowledge the "gravity of the threat" to religious minorities, including Christians, in Syria and Iraq, should they fail to discriminate positively in their favour.
Representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and other communities gathered at an emergency summit in London last week to pledge support to an operation to evacuate Christians from Syria through Operation Safe Havens, led by the Christian charity the Barnabas Fund. The project has so far removed 42 Christian families from Damascus to Poland.
The development agency CAFOD has also criticised the British Government over Syria, saying that it should take in 20,000 Syrian refugees, as promised, but over a shorter period than the five years set out by the UK.
CAFOD’s director of advocacy and education, Neil Thorns, said that the Prime Minister’s offer "doesn’t go far enough". More than 2000 Roman Catholics in England and Wales had emailed Mr Cameron within a week to support CAFOD’s campaign.
On Thursday of last week, the House of Commons passed a motion calling for a "radical reform" of the immigration detention system in the UK. The motion, including the introduction of a limit of 28 days on how long people can be detained, was passed after a three-hour debate on a report published earlier this year by the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration. It argued that the Government relied too heavily on detention, which should be used only as a last resort.
Irish minister rejects religious discrimination. Religion should not be a basis for discrimination against refugees from the Middle East, the Irish Minister for Defence, Somon Coveney, said on Sunday of last week, writes Gregg Ryan.
Mr Coveney rejected fears expressed by the President of Hungary, Viktor Orban, and the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, that, because most migrants were Muslim, their presence in Europe would be a challenge to Christian values and culture.