Faith groups urge Home Secretary to rethink new immigration plan

Syrian refugees julie ricard unsplashThe United Reformed Church has joined a coalition of faith groups and leaders in writing to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to urge her to rethink the government’s proposed New Plan for Immigration, which they say “lacks humanity and respect for human dignity.”

Signatories include the Jesuit Refugee Service, Caritas, Welcome Churches, the Salvation Army, Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network, UK Welcomes Refugees, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the United Free Church of Scotland and many others.

The full statement follows:

On 24 March 2021, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced the government’s New Plan for Immigration (NPFI), which was launched alongside a consultation on the proposals. Following the closure of the consultation on 6 May 2021, the government is planning to introduce a bill to enshrine the proposals into UK law.

As a coalition of Christian faith groups and faith leaders brought together by the St Vincent de Paul Society (England and Wales), we believe these proposals lack humanity and respect for human dignity. We believe it would be wrong to create a system in which the way people enter the UK will impact how their asylum claim is processed and the status they might receive.

Many people who are forced to flee their homes in desperate circumstances simply have no choice but to cross borders informally to reach a safe haven; to penalise them for this is to abandon the very principle of international protection. Moves to criminalise and penalise undocumented entry to the UK set out in the NPFI mean it will effectively be impossible for most people to claim asylum in the UK because safe and legal routes for claiming asylum in the UK are extremely limited, and could never feasibly be made available to all who need them. We cannot ignore their plight and reduce it to a statistical act of bureaucracy.

This nation has a long history of welcoming people from all over the world. People who have arrived in our communities through the asylum system are our neighbours, members of our congregations and valued members of our neighbourhoods. We should recognise our common interests of family, community and faith, and embrace the diversity which makes our communities dynamic and vibrant. We call for a rejection of hostility towards people seeking asylum and an end to punitive measures aimed at people who are seeking sanctuary in our country.

We welcome the government’s commitment to resettlement through the new UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) and look forward to the announcement of resettlement targets for the years to come, but this must not be at the expense of an asylum system that strives to offer protection to those who need it.

We urge the Home Secretary to embed principles of welcome, protection and integration into the government’s policies. We must treat individuals and families seeking sanctuary on our shores as our brothers and sisters and valued members of our communities. How we respond to those in need has profound implications for who we are as a society. Recognising our obligations to those who seek sanctuary is fundamental to building a just and flourishing nation.

Signed by

The Revd Clare Downing and Mr Peter Pay, Moderators of General Assembly, United Reformed Church

The Church at Carrs Lane, Birmingham (Methodist and United Reformed Church)

Elizabeth Palmer – CEO St Vincent de Paul Society

Ben Gilchrist – Chief Executive of Caritas Shrewsbury

Lizzie Reynolds – Ordinand on placement at Ripon Cathedral

Sarah Teather, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service UK

Emily Holden – Acting CEO at Welcome Churches

Anne-Marie Tarter – Member of the congregation of Ripon Cathedral

The Revd Dr Simon Cartwright – Vicar at Walbrook Epiphany Team

Sister Margaret Barrett – Director of Mission, Daughters of Charity Services

Naomi Bennett and Danielle Wilson, Co-CEOs at Red Letter Christians UK

Carmelite Prior of Aylesford in Kent

Barbara Forbes, Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network

The Revd Will Leaf, Vicar at St Mark’s Kensal Rise

Claudia Holmes – UKCEN Founder

Sally Smith, Sanctus St Mark’s, Diocese of Lichfield Sally Smith

Catherine Gladwell, Chief Executive, Refugee Education UK

The Revd Ian Rutherford, City Centre Minister, Methodist Central Hall, Manchester

Mauricio Silva, Coordinator at Fatima House

Ben Bano & Phil Kerton, Co-Directors – Seeking Sanctuary

Ros Holland, Chief Exec, Boaz Trust Ros Holland

The Revd Gerard Goshawk, Six Ways Erdington Baptist Church, Birmingham

The Revd Jon Scamman, Vicar of St Thomas’ Church Lancaster

Reynette Roberts MBE, CEO of Oasis Cardiff

Nadine Daniel BEM, Campaigns and Communications Coordinator, UK Welcomes Refugees

The Revd Ian Dyble, Priest in Charge, The Weybourne Group of Churches (CofE)

Hugh McLeod, Derby Quakers Hugh McLeod

Sr Margaret Walsh, Patron and Trustee, St Chad’s Sanctuary

Domenica Pecoraro, Kent Refugee Project Officer, Diocese of Canterbury

Patrick Coyle, Chair of Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales

Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Diocese of Salford

Julian Prior, CEO, Action Foundation

Church and Peace, Britain and Ireland Region

National Justice and Peace Network

Barbara Kentish, Committee member of Westminster Justice and Peace

Paul Southgate, Chair of National Justice and Peace Network

Christians Aware

Vicar is David Tomlinson, St Paul’s in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain

People Not Walls UK

The Revd Lynn Green – General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

Fr Michael Hartley

The Revd Maureen Priddin, Chaplain for Justice and Peace Derby Cathedral, Member of the Derby City of Sanctuary network

John O Fulton, Moderator of the General Assembly, United Free Church of Scotland

Bishop Nolan, President of Justice and Peace Scotland, commission of the Catholic Church in Scotland

David Moore, Easton Christian Family Centre

Revd Canon Simon Gatenby, Christ Church Brunswick, Manchester

South Lancaster Refugee Welcome

Natalie Williams, CEO, Jubilee+

Jo Simister, Derby City Deanery

Lancaster Quakers

Fr Dominic Robinson, Chairman Westminster Justice and Peace Commission

The Revd Carol Backhouse, Christ Church, Lancaster (Church of England)

The Revd Alton Bell, Movement for Change and Reconciliation

Fr Peter Hughes SSC, Regional Director of the British Region of the Society of St Columban

Community Church Harlesden

Carolyn Lawrence, Vice President of the Methodist Conference

The Rt Revd Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, The Church of Scotland

RC Southwark archdiocese

National Board of Catholic Women

Fr Habte Ukbay, JPIC Southwark

Jo Watters, Father Hudson’s Care based in the Archdiocese of Birmingham

Derby City of sanctuary network, Chaplain for Justice and Peace Derby Cathedral

Dean Pallant, Lt Colonel, The Salvation Army

Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, The Ark Synagogue

Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi

Rabbi Sybil Sheridan – Executive Director, Lyons Learning Project

Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild

Rabbi Kath Vardi

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, Edgware & Hendon Reform Synagogue

Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts, Associate Lecturer, Dept of Music, Newcastle University and Honorary Research Associate, Dept of Anthropology, Durham University

Rabbi Daniel Lichman

Clifton Road Interfaith Committee

Image: Julie Ricard/Unsplash.
Published: 11 May 2021

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