Moderator speaks out on asylum plans

Last Updated on 25 April 2022 by Ann-Marie Nye

The Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, has issued a statement regarding recent developments around immigration policy, saying “to fail to speak out would be a denial of our gospel calling”.

On 14 April, the government announced a plan to send some asylum seekers arriving in the UK to Rwanda, prompting widespread criticism, including from the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Easter sermon.

Then on 20 April, MPs voted to reject amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill made by the House of Lords which would have expanded and protected family reunion rights, enabled asylum seekers to work, established a target for resettlement, and amended the discriminatory two-tier system proposed for asylum seekers. Ahead of that vote, church leaders had urged MPs to support the amendments.

This followed a joint letter signed by over 1000 faith leaders in February expressing horror about the potential repercussions of the Bill.

Revd Clare Downing said:

“Church leaders have been criticised for joining the debate about asylum and immigration plans. But in the face of unfair and cruel proposals, to fail to speak out would be a denial of our gospel calling. The Biblical mandate is that righteous nations ‘welcome the stranger’.

“While recognising the many complexities involved in setting immigration policy amid the challenges of the contemporary world, we are clear that every individual, whatever their status, should be treated by the state with humanity, dignity, respect and fairness.

“To criminalise and discriminate against those asylum seekers who currently have little choice but to arrive in the UK through ‘irregular routes’, when the majority have a legitimate basis for their asylum claim, is a disgraceful and dishonourable policy.

“To export some of those seeking asylum to Rwanda is a denial of the UK’s responsibilities and of the rights and dignity of refugees. Questions have rightly been raised about Rwanda’s record on human rights and the treatment of LGBT people in particular.

“There are many more suitable options open to the government that would save lives in the Channel and tackle people-smuggling, including the establishment of new safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK, allowing refugees to reunite with their families, and providing increased international development assistance to countries that neighbour conflict and crisis.

“As we said in our letter to MPs ahead of the vote in parliament, we will not stop advocating for love to be shown to our neighbour through the policies and practices in our asylum system. Our churches will continue to come alongside those who remain in desperate need of our friendship and welcome.”

The Nationality and Borders Bill now returns to the House of Lords for further consideration. For the latest updates, and guidance on how you can raise your voice about the Bill, visit the Joint Public Issues Team website.


Image: Ggia, CC BY-SA 4.0