ARCHBISHOP OF WALES JOINS 1,000 FAITH LEADERS URGE PM TO THINK AGAIN ON REFUGEE BILL
The Archbishop of Wales The Most Revd Andrew John, The Chair of the Wales Synod of the Methodist Church Revd Stephen Wigley and the Chair of the Board of Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales) Dr Patrick Coyle are among more than 1000 faith leaders from across the UK who have written to the Prime Minister urging him to reconsider the Nationality & Borders Bill. The leaders, representing the six major faith groups in the UK (1), said they are ‘horrified and appalled about the potential repercussions’ of the Bill and called on the Prime Minister to make urgent changes ‘even at this late stage’.
The letter, published today (Monday 28 February 2022), the day the Bill enters its final stages in the House of Lords – a crucial last opportunity to make changes – states: “While there is still conflict and injustice in the world, there will always be desperate people needing to seek sanctuary from war, persecution and suffering. We cannot close our door on them, but this Bill does just that.
“We assert that the values that bind UK citizens together, especially those concerning human dignity and life, will be fundamentally damaged by this Bill.”
In the context of rising global conflict, including this week in Ukraine, the way the bill undermines the UK’s ability to support all people fleeing conflict is even more prominent.
The letter calls on the Prime Minister to make substantial changes to the Bill. These include abandoning the government’s plans to criminalise and restrict the rights of all people arriving in the UK seeking refugee protection outside pre-arranged schemes, including those coming via irregular routes, such as by boats or lorries. The signatories say this policy was made ‘without a basis in evidence or morality’.
The signatories also assert that the government must urgently address the failure to establish safe routes through the Bill, which would help people seeking sanctuary reach the UK, saying that this failure fundamentally undermines its aims. They urge the Prime Minister to be ‘compassionate and ambitious’ in opening schemes such as family reunion, routes for unaccompanied refugee children in Europe and resettlement.
Representatives from communities in every county in England have signed, as have a broad representation in Scotland and Wales. Many faith groups across the UK have witnessed first-hand the positive impact of safe routes on people in their communities, working in refugee integration initiatives, community sponsorship programmes and providing emergency support to refugees recently arrived from Afghanistan.
The letter calls on the Prime Minister to show ‘political leadership’ and promote ‘compassion, human life and dignity’. Faith leaders have asked the Prime Minister to meet to discuss their concerns.
Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council in Britain, said: “There are many provisions in the Nationality and Borders Bill that are deeply concerning for faith communities.
“We must, therefore, not abandon our moral obligation to ensure safe passage for those who need it, to have a fair and equitable asylum process and protect nationality as a right, not just a privilege. We have a duty to uphold the UK’s proud tradition as a nation made all the richer by those who come here to build a better life, or seek sanctuary from persecution.”
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism, said: “Both my parents were welcomed here as refugees. Their experiences taught me to host refugees in my house and work with my community in supporting many people forced to flee their homelands in fear of their lives.
“I’ve listened to heart-rending accounts of the journeys of young asylum seekers desperate to be reunited with relatives in this country. The Nationality and Borders Bill proposes that we close the door on them, cruelly leaving them without any opportunity for safety and a future. We cannot let this happen. I implore the government to open safe passages and not discriminate against those who, in vital need of sanctuary, find whatever way they can to reach a place of refuge.”
The letter was coordinated by the ecumenical Joint Public Issues Team, made up of the Methodist Church in Britain, Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church, working with the Church of Scotland.
Contact: Hannah Brown, The Methodist Church – firstname.lastname@example.org, 07517694606
- (1) At the 2011 Census, the six major faith groups represented in the UK were shown as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.
- The letter is being sent to the Prime Minister on Monday 28th February 2022. Full text is available here.
- The Nationality & Borders Bill is scheduled to have its first day of Report Stage in the House of Lords on Monday 28th February.
- Available for interview:
- Ms Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council in Britain
- Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism
- Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover
- Revd Matthew Lunn, Muswell Hill Welcomes (case study of interfaith collaboration to welcome refugees).
- The letter is available to view here.
- Welsh signatories to the letter include:
Chair of the Board of Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales) – Dr Patrick Coyle
Rev Meirion Morris, General Secretary, Presbyterian Church in Wales
Rev Beti-Wyn James, President, Union of Welsh Independent Churches/Undeb yr Annibynwyr Cymraeg
The Most Revd Andrew John, Archbishop of Wales, The Church in Wales
The Rt Revd Dominic Walker, Hon. Assistant Bishop, Church in Wales
Revd Dr Jennifer Hurd, District Chair, Synod Cymru, The Methodist Church in Britain
Revd Stephen Wigley, Chair of the Wales Synod of the Methodist Church
Revd Mark Fairweather-Tall, Regional Minister, South Wales Baptist Association