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LEADERS FROM the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT),  a partnership between the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church. have  issued a joint statement opposing the ‘Illegal Migration bill’

“We are appalled by the proposals in the government’s ‘Illegal Migration blll’ to detain, punish and reject thousands of people seeking safety. They are completely incompatible with our Christian conviction that all human beings are made in the image of God, and are therefore inherently worthy of treatment which honours their dignity. Instead of dignity, these plans will foster discrimination and distrust, and cause immeasurable harm to people already made vulnerable by conflict and persecution. If ever there was a contemporary example of ignoring our neighbour and walking by on the other side, this is it.

“When two in three people who cross the channel to seek sanctuary in the UK are granted asylum following rigorous checks, it seems unthinkable to reject them before they have even had a chance to have their claim for asylum heard. Many people fleeing war and persecution in countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Eritrea and Sudan have been left with no safe and accessible routes to claim asylum in the UK, forcing people to make difficult and dangerous decisions. The UK falls far behind our global neighbours in welcoming people seeking sanctuary into our communities, and yet these plans essentially put a ban on claiming asylum and reject the UK’s responsibility to play our part in responding to global inequalities and conflict.

We all agree that we cannot continue to see thousands of people risk their lives to reach safety in the UK, but the solution cannot be deterrence and punishment. As Christians, we believe that we should be amongst the first to welcome the stranger with open arms. We urge the government to withdraw this legislation, to honour our moral and international obligations and to behave with compassion and fairness by establishing safe and accessible routes to enable the UK to play its part in welcoming people in need of safety.

Signed by

The Rev Fiona Bennett, URC General Assembly Moderator

The Rev Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union

The Rev Graham Thompson, President of the Methodist Conference

Anthony Boateng, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference

Quakers in Britain have also expressed their opposition, calling the bill ‘inhumane’ because it would subject thousands of vulnerable people to destitution, detention and deportation. They argue that the  bill would ban people entering the UK via irregular routes from claiming asylum or re-entering in the future. These people would be detained on arrival and the Home Secretary would have a duty to deport them to Rwanda or another country. There are also plans for an annual cap on the number of refugees accepted into the UK.

They point out that the plans will violate the UK’s duties under international law. Under the Refugee Convention: the UK has a duty to offer sanctuary to people fleeing persecution no matter how many countries they pass through or how they arrive here.

Quakers believe that people fleeing violence, poverty and natural disasters should be treated with compassion, rather than being subjected to further harm.  Successive UK government policies and legislation, such as the Nationality and Borders Act and the Rwanda policy. have undermined this principle in recent years,

 Rooted in their belief that there is ‘that of God’ in everyone, Quakers are committed to working for a world where dignity and rights are upheld regardless of migration or citizenship status.

Quakers in Britain support a network of over one hundred Quaker ‘sanctuary meetings. These meetings work to build a culture of welcome towards newcomers to Britain, to challenge racism in all its forms, and campaign to change the laws on destitution, detention and deportation.

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain said: “This bill is another step in the direction of hostility and away from kindness when it comes to UK migration policy. It is inhumane to automatically detain and deport people seeking sanctuary in the UK, simply on the basis of the route they have taken.

The government should focus on tackling the drivers of forced migration by promoting peace and climate justice around the world and ensuring that people aren’t forced to risk their lives in small boats by expanding safe and legal routes for those seeking sanctuary.”

* Sources: JPIT and Quakers in Britain