Church leaders call on government to rethink language on migrants

By Agencies
August 17, 2015

Leaders of four UK Churches have called on the Government to rethink the way it speaks about migrants.

Leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church issued a statement on the situation in Calais, emphasising the importance of public debate being grounded in values of compassion and of decisions being made on the basis of facts.

They called on the Government to adopt language which better reflects the British values of compassion, hospitality and respect for human dignity and to promote a more informed and higher level of debate.

"The language in which the Calais situation is being discussed tends too often to demonise, denigrate or dehumanise the individuals seeking refuge in Britain. To talk of those gathering at Calais as a 'swarm', or 'marauding around the area' encourages people to see those in desperation as less than human, and so less deserving of sympathy, respect or dignity.

"The numbers involved do not warrant talk of an 'invasion' or 'flood' of migrants. The people at Calais represent a tiny fraction of the overall number of migrants who have entered the EU in the past year. In 2014, Germany took three times more asylum seekers than the UK's 14,000, and Sweden twice as many. France, Italy and Switzerland also granted asylum to more people than the UK.

"We welcome the affirmation by the Home Secretary that Europe would 'always provide protection for those genuinely fleeing conflict or persecution'. We share the concern of all involved to see a peaceful and humane solution to this particular expression of a far broader catastrophe."

The Churches have also asked the Government to recognise that most migrants cannot be returned to their country of origin and to accept the need for the UK to take its share of migrants.

* The full text of the statement made by Vice-President of the Methodist Conference Dr Jill Barber, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain the Rev Lynn Green, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church the Rev David Grosch-Miller, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland the Rt Rev Angus Morrison, and President of the Methodist Conference the Rev Steve Wild, can be read here:


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