THE hostile environment is inhumane, discriminatory, and encourages “suspicion and distrust”, a group of Churches has said.
In a report published last week, the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) — comprising representatives of the Baptist Union, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, and Church of Scotland — calls for the end of the hostile environment, which is the groups of policies aimed to make life difficult for immigrants.
The report says: “This should start with a full independent review of Home Office immigration policy and practice which examines the damaging effect the policies of the hostile environment have on the whole of society.”
The report is published after controversy over the Government’s hostile-environment policy, when members of the “Windrush generation” were threatened with deportation, despite having lived in Britain for decades (Comment, 13 April, News, 20 April).
“But the treatment of the Windrush generation is just the tip of the iceberg. The web of the hostile environment has a far wider reach,” the report says.
The hostile environment, it says, “uses the threat of destitution as a policy tool to encourage people to leave the country”; it “increases the risk of discrimination”; and it “spins a web of distrust”.
The JPIT has launched a campaign to challenge the hostile environment, calling on other Christian groups to follow its lead, and for a “hospitable environment” to be created.
It argues that, as Christians, they believe that: “Every human being is a child of God and should be treated with dignity and respect”; “society and therefore the state have a duty of care to welcome strangers in our midst, protect the vulnerable and provide for those in extreme poverty, wherever they are from”; and “racism and related forms of discrimination are a denial of the gospel”.
In a joint statement, the JPIT Church leaders said: “As Christians we believe that God calls us to offer welcome to the stranger and care for the vulnerable, whoever they are.
“Many of our Churches support those who have suffered hardship as a result of the hostile environment. Our Churches include some of the very people who are at risk of destitution and discrimination. Our Christian faith moves us to pray and work for a society where people are truly hospitable to one another.
“We are therefore calling for a review of immigration policy and practice to examine the damaging effects that the hostile environment is having on the whole of society.”
The statement was signed by the General Secretary of the Baptist Union, the Revd Lynn Green; the Convenor of the Church and Society Committee of the Church of Scotland, the Revd Dr Richard Frazer; the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Loraine N. Mellor and Jill Baker; and the Moderators of the United Reformed Church, the Revd Kevin Watson and Alan Yates.