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Deacon’s protest at Home Office rules goes viral

28 February 2020

Immigration changes are shocking, says Frenchwoman

The Revd Solveig Sonet in October 2019

The Revd Solveig Sonet in October 2019

A DEACON who voiced her sadness at the new immigration rules that would have left her unable to “make the cut” to come into the UK has been overwhelmed by support from her community and online.

The deacon, the Revd Solveig Sonet, came to the UK from France with no job offer, or money, or spoken-English skills, as a student, 15 years ago. After working as a verger in Winchester and Salisbury Ca­­thedrals, she trained at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, was or­­­dained last year and now serves in the Swanage and Studland Team Ministry, in Salisbury diocese.

Shocked and saddened by details of new immigration rules, unveiled by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, last week, Ms Sonet posted on Twitter: “Just lost for words. . . I came to the UK with no job offer, no salary, no English, no ‘skill’; I would simply never make the cut. Yet here I am burying your loved ones, bap­­tis­­­ing your new babies, holding your hand when you’re scared, offering you a home in your local church.”

Her post went viral, attracting messages of support and outrage at the new points-based system that will close the borders to low-skilled workers and those who do not speak a “required” level of English and have a job offer.

She said: “I felt so sad, and that we are restricting this country so much. The new rules don’t leave room for people to come here and flourish and give something back. I had no idea when I came here as a student that I would end up being ordained in the Church of England. I was lucky enough to be able to come here with no plan and just let life — and God — happen. People in my parishes have been so welcoming to me that the new rules came as a real shock. So many of those I trained with in Oxford were from outside the UK — from Poland, from South Africa, from France — the Church itself will be really affected by the new rules.”

The Revd Richard Coles also posted on Twitter: “After seven years of training, fifteen years in ministry, four degrees, a Fellow­ship of King’s College London, a university Chan­cellor­ship and a respectable showing on Masterchef, I am offi­cially unskilled?”

Others pointed out that “a certain Jesus of Nazareth would never have been allowed into the UK under these con­­­­­ditions”.

The Church of Eng­land has yet to issue a response to the new im­­migration rules.

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