BISHOPS REPRESENTING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH in England, Wales and Scotland have written to Home Secretary Priti Patel, expressing their concerns about her New Plan for Immigration, and its implications for the human dignity of people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees in England and Wales, and Bishop William Nolan, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland say our asylum system should provide “a generous response to those driven from their homes by the many challenges facing our world today, such as poverty, conflict, or the climate emergency.”

Calling on the Secretary of State to consider Britain’s global responsibilities, the Bishops say: ”We cannot ignore our own role in this displacement, particularly through making significant cuts to the aid budget, which are falling upon the world’s poorest people, and our status as one of the largest exporters of arms, which fuel conflicts around the world.”

Warning against the creation of a two-tier asylum system, the letter continues: “We know that many families and individuals have no choice in the route that they take and to penalise them on this basis dangerously undermines the principle of asylum. We oppose any move to treat differently those forced to risk their lives or make difficult journeys to reach safety and those who are selected for organised resettlement routes.”

On human trafficking, the Bishops say “There are many shortcomings in our society’s response [to] the evils of human trafficking, not least in identifying victims, providing them with the right support, and prosecuting those responsible for exploitation. However, these will not be solved by tougher border security and a less generous asylum system, measures which risk driving more people into the hands of criminals. We believe in tackling trafficking through combining a strong response to organised crime, with the opening of more safe and legal routes to sanctuary, while ensuring that victims are never criminalised.”

The letter concludes: “How we respond to those in need has profound implications for our society. We must keep in mind that welcoming successive generations of refugees has greatly enriched our communities. It is therefore imperative that we continue to make room for people who seek safety and a home among us in the UK.”

* Source: Justice and Peace Scotland