World churches criticise UK policies on asylum and immigration
The World Council of Churches has criticised the immigration and asylum policies of the main political parties in the UK.
In a public statement one day before the end of its 15-22 February meeting in Geneva, the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee said that churches and Christians were called to "insist as a matter of principle, that undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers are detained only in exceptional circumstances", "for only a limited time", with access to "judicial review" and never in worse conditions than "convicted criminals".
The statement comes after a number of criticisms by church leaders and church bodies in the UK of asylum and immigration policy.
Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, Chairman of the Office for Migration Policy of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales recently slammed the two main political parties over their 'bidding war' on immigration and asylum. He implied that their rhetoric had been 'xenophobic'.
The Bishop of Lancaster also said that asylum seekers were "living in appalling circumstances" and that he was "scandalised" upon his recent visit to one asylum centre.
The Churches' Commission for Racial Justice also criticised Tory leader Michael Howard's pledge, to pull Britain out of the Refugee Convention should the Conservatives be returned to government, as both 'alarming and dangerous'.
The latest statement by the WCC was one of 17 recommendations from its central committee on "uprooted people" which gives account of two of the last decade's "disturbing developments" with regard to migration; globalisation, and the effects of September 11.
"Analysing global patterns of migration reveals an enormous gap between the gospel imperative to practise hospitality towards strangers and the actual policies and practice of governments to close borders" the statement said.
The WCC did however welcome the latest initiatives by the UK Government with regard to Africa.
Initiatives to provide deeper and wider debt relief for poorer countries, particularly those in Africa, including the proposed International Finance Facility and the recently created Commission for Africa, were welcomed by the Public Issues committee of the WCC central committee.
"Given the colonial history of the UK and the countryís difficulties to meet the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent of GNP, this is indeed a welcome and encouraging development", the Public Issues committee stated.
It also called on the WCC central committee to ask the general secretary "to continue to be engaged with the British government and monitor how this and other initiatives will affect African countries".