A Very British Nativity highlights UK’s ‘hostile environment’ for asylum seekers

john humphreys

A new film released today highlights some of the challenges facing asylum seekers in the UK through a modern retelling of the nativity story. This release comes the day after new figures from the Government were published revealing that in September of this year 37,958 asylum seekers in the UK were in receipt of accommodation and/or financial support of less than £6 per day.

Whilst primarily focused on a young Mary and Joseph’s efforts to find somewhere safe to stay in the UK, the film, A Very British Nativity, also includes a cameo from three wise men who have ditched their trusty camels in favour of micro scooters. However, the trio’s mission to deliver their gifts is quickly scuppered by an Immigration Enforcement Officer, who is concerned by the group’s unspecified travel plans.

Martha, aged eight, attends a Methodist Church and played Mary in the film. She said: ‘Mary must have felt tired. She would have been sad because she couldn’t find a home and worried about her baby. I think people should watch this film; we all need to help others who have left their home because something bad has happened.’

The film was produced by a coalition of four Church denominations in the UK; the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, and the Methodist Church.

Church and Society Secretary for the United Reformed Church, and policy adviser for the Churches, Grace Pengelly, directed the film. She commented: ‘Our Churches are very concerned about the degrading treatment and challenges faced by asylum seekers in the UK. It is sometimes all too easy to forget that many seeking asylum have already experienced a great deal of trauma. Rather than providing the standard of care that we would wish for ourselves, many aspects of the UK’s asylum system appear to add to the suffering already endured by those seeking refuge. Our hope is that, in seeing this film, people will be more aware of how hard this Christmas will be for some of the poorest members of our society.’

A Very British Nativity launches the day after the release of the Government’s quarterly migration statistics which show that, in September, 37,958 asylum seekers received support from the Government’s National Asylum Support Service, which means they qualify for accommodation and/or financial support of less than £6 per day. The report also reveals that, so far in 2016, 45% of appeals made by asylum seekers were allowed, indicating that the system currently in place is struggling to adequately assess the needs of asylum seekers.


  • A Very British Nativity is publically available for embedding and distribution as of 2 December 2016
  • A background briefing, A Very British Nativity: the facts behind the film, is available here.
  • Behind the scenes photos from the film are available to download here.
  • Grace Pengelly is available for interview. Please call 020 7467 5208 or email fairclought@methodistchurch.org.uk to arrange.
  • The Government’s Office for National Statistics released its Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: November 2016 on 1 December 2016. A copy of the report is available here.
  • The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church collaborate together on issues of justice and inequality as part of the Joint Public Issues Team.
  • The hashtag #averybritishnativity is being used to promote the film