Bishops have lined up to attack the Government's Asylum and Immigration Bill which had its Second Reading in the House of Lords this week.
Among them the Bishop of Southwark said that Government proposals to remove benefit from refugee families facing deportation would make the task of the churches more difficult, reports the Church of England Newspaper.
As well as criticising the bill, Bishop's pressed for a fairer system for asylum seekers.
The Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler said that the dispersal of refugees around the country had meant that many more churches were encountering asylum seekers.
ìTheir response was, at first, cautious; then, occasionally, it was brave in the face of local, sometimes extremist, opposition.î
He added, ìFor us this is a pastoral and perhaps a prophetic challenge. People fleeing oppression and persecution arrive at our ports and airports ñ vulnerable, desperate, in a strange and bewildering place ñ and find themselves confronted with processes that they may not fully understand or trust.î
He said that they often came to church halls and vicarages. In turn, he said, the churches and faith communities were filling a gap in provision by providing food, clothing, language classes, housing and legal advice, and translation services. The bill, he said, could worsen that gap in provision.
He and other peers attacked clause 8 of the Bill, which will remove beneifts from those whose claims have been turned down. He pressed the government to state how they would avoid leaving families destitute or taking children into care.
ìAny government would be most unwise even to appear to bring in legislation in which it could be alleged that children were being used as a lever upon families to return to countries in which they fear to live.î
The Bishops of Oxford and Worcester also spoke in the debate. Bishop Richard Harries claimed that while inordinate delay was the desire of no one, including the refugee, he feared that the government was going for ëearly finalityí in the speed of processing asylum claims at the expense of justice.
ìThere are many occasions in life when we would just like to 'sort it all out' or resolve some issue. We may feel frustrated and impatient. But, more important than early finality is the correctness of the decision,î he argued.
He criticised the one-tier system of making decisions and called for an appeal system independent of the decision-making process and the initial appeal system.
The Bishop of Worcester, Peter Selby, expressed fears that the difficult processes in the Bill could put off genuine asylums seekers from coming to Britain.
ìWho is giving attention to finding how many people are sitting trembling in refugee camps in distant places, or enduring unbelievable oppression because of what they have heard about the processes which they will have to go through if they are to attempt to flee and come to a different country,î he asked.