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Bishops support Dubs move to extend grace for asylum-seekers

07 June 2023


The Comfort Inn hotel in Pimlico, central London, in which the Home Office has reportedly asked for a group of refugees to be accommodated four to a room

The Comfort Inn hotel in Pimlico, central London, in which the Home Office has reportedly asked for a group of refugees to be accommodated four to a r...

THE Bishops of Coventry and Durham voiced concerns about the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill on Monday, as the House of Lords considered amendments.

The Committee stage of the Bill continued on Monday, and is scheduled for a further three days over the next fortnight. The Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to put forward his amendments on 14 June, the final day currently allotted for its discussion.

Archbishop Welby’s amendments would require the Home Secretary to formulate ten-year strategies for international collaboration to tackle human trafficking and address the global refugee crisis (News, 10 May).

On Monday, the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, spoke in favour of another amendment, put forward by Lord Dubs (Labour) with the support of the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler.

The amendment sought to remove a limitation on considering an asylum claim if it had previously been found inadmissible: for example, because the person had arrived by an illegal route.

“By denying those who are deemed inadmissible from ever claiming asylum . . . thousands of men, women, and children will simply not have their case heard, let alone assessed, regardless of how grave their protection needs might be, and regardless of the fact that there is no way to travel to the UK with prior authorisation in order to claim asylum in many cases,” Dr Cocksworth said.

The amendment would enable people whose cases had been deemed inadmissible for consideration to have their claim considered if, after six months, they had not been removed from the UK.

This, Dr Cocksworth suggested, “would bring us closer in line with the basic rationale of the refugee convention. It does not completely overturn that which the other place has sent to us, but neither does it leave us, nor the people to whom it is directed, with insoluble problems.”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders, Lord Murray of Blidworth, said that the amendment would, however, “regrettably again encourage illegal migrants to use every tactic to frustrate their removal, in the knowledge that after six months their asylum claim would be processed”.

In the event, the amendment was not moved.

Arriving later on Monday, Bishop Butler apologised for his earlier absence, caused by a delayed flight on his return from Germany. He spoke in favour of amendments that sought to tighten the definition of a “safe” country to which individuals could be deported under the new law.

“It will be vital that we take seriously examining the situations in specific countries as and when they arise. We recognise that countries change and might become safe when they are currently unsafe. Equally, countries that are currently deemed safe may become unsafe,” he said.

Earlier on Monday afternoon, the Bishop of Portsmouth, Dr Jonathan Frost, had responded to a Tweet posted by the Prime Minister to promote the Bill.

“In my view, something precious, compassionate and profoundly humane in Britain’s historic approach towards those fleeing violence, political instability and seeking asylum is being lost, laid aside or forgotten,” Dr Frost wrote. “Surely we must resist policy approaches less nuanced or shorter term: for the sake of good governance, compassion and in the name of One who calls us to ‘love the stranger’.”

The Committee stage is set to resume on Wednesday afternoon.

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