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Put aside politics to deal with migrant crisis, say church leaders

03 December 2021

Alamy

An emergency protest in Westminster, on Saturday, in response to the drownings in the English Channel. The protest was organised by Care4Calais and Stand Up To Racism, and called for safe and legal routes for refugees to come to the UK

An emergency protest in Westminster, on Saturday, in response to the drownings in the English Channel. The protest was organised by Care4Calais and St...

NO EFFECTIVE solutions will be found to the migrant crisis unless states, religious groups, and civil society come together in a spirit of pragmatism and compassion, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, Lord Wallace, have said. They made a joint statement after the drowning of 30 migrants in the English Channel last week.

“It is a tragic reality that worldwide there are more than 26 million refugees, around half of whom are children,” the two leaders said, describing the figure of 80 million displaced people worldwide as “a global challenge of terrifying proportion. . .This situation cannot go on: let this be the moment we bring hope for all God’s precious children.”

The Bishop of Bradwell, Dr John Perumbalath, who chairs the Churches Refugee Network, called on the Government “to ensure that there are ‘corridors’ or ‘safe passages’ that enable those seeking asylum to do so without further jeopardising their lives”. Equally, he wanted to see the British and French governments establishing “a genuine entente cordiale . . . to thwart the exploitative people smugglers who are cruelly profiting from those who desire to start a new life in this country.”

He urged them to “put aside politics and place human life centre-stage”, a plea also made by the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin. Migration must stop being used as a political football, she urged. “I am feeling a deep inner rage that the world continues to allow this to happen, couched with political rhetoric as to whose fault it is. It is all our fault: we must all take responsibility,” she told BBC Radio Kent.

The new Immigration and Asylum Bill, which passed its First Reading in the Commons in July, will make arriving in the UK without permission a criminal offence, and gives powers to return asylum-seekers to “safe third countries” if they passed through any before arriving in the UK. Border Force officials will have the power to turn back boats that attempt to cross the Channel, and will “use reasonable force if necessary”.

Pope Francis has described the treatment of thousands of migrants around the world as “deplorable”. In a video message for the 70th anniversary of the International Organisation for Migrants, he said that they were treated as “merchandise”, “pawns on the chessboard”, and “victims of political rivalries. . .The fundamental lack of human respect across national borders diminishes us all in our ‘humanity’.”

Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords last week, the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, said that a policy of deterrence that did not also provide adequate and safe alternatives for migrants was insufficient.


Read more on the story from Paul Vallely

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