Faith leaders urge government to rethink immigration approach

migrants after crossing the sea 21756135850 aa1c429a27 oRepresentatives from the United Reformed Church have joined faith leaders in urging the government to rethink its approach to immigration, and to move away from a hostile environment towards a culture of sanctuary, as MPs return to parliament after the festive break.

In an open letter to the government, published on Sunday 6 January, the faith leaders wrote:

‘As representatives of faith communities, we are dismayed by the current debate around immigration. The long-awaited Immigration white paper is misguided and disjointed, the promised engagement unclear, and the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill a missed opportunity.

‘Urgent action is needed to create a more humane system. Refugee families must be kept together, and close family members allowed to join their children in the UK. The right to work after six months should be extended to all people seeking asylum. There must be a time limit on immigration detention, an end to the detention of vulnerable people, and a genuine discussion about the often impossible standards of proof required by the immigration system. The first reaction to those arriving in boats should not be to disbelieve their stories.

‘Today is Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas; the story of the flight of the Holy Family echoes the plight of refugees around the world. We say to the government: let us help you transform the hostile environment, not into a compliant environment, but into a culture of sanctuary.’

The signatories include:

Derek Estill, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
John Collings, Secretary of the Church & Society Committee of the National Synod of Scotland of the United Reformed Church
The Revd Fleur Houston, Churches Refugee Network and retired United Reformed Church minister 
John Adegoke, Chair, Unification Council of Cherubim and Seraphim Churches, Europe Chapter
The Rt. Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon
Dr Patrick Coyle, Chair of Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales
John P Cross, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland
The Most Revd John Davies, Archbishop of Wales
The Revd Canon Aled Edwards OBE, CEO Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales
Bob Fyffe, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
The Rt. Revd Richard Jackson, Bishop of Lewes
The Revd Dr Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader, Baptist Union of Great Britain
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
Kathy Mohan, CEO, Housing Justice
The Revd Judith Morris, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Wales
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
The Rt. Revd Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids
Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church

Picture: Refugees and migrants after crossing the sea: Jordi Bernabeu Farrus/Flickr