More than 1,000 ‘horrified’ faith leaders urge PM to rethink Refugee Bill

Last Updated on 1 March 2022 by Ann-Marie Nye

The Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of the United Reformed Church (URC) General Assembly, and Revd Dr John Bradbury, General Secretary of the URC, along with 64 URC ministers, lay preachers and Church Related Community Workers, have joined more than 1000 faith leaders in urging Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, to reconsider the Nationality and Borders Bill.

In a letter, the leaders – including the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Ms Zara Mohammed; former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Dr Rowan Williams; the Bishop of Dover, the Revd Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin; leading Rabbis and senior Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist representatives – say they are “horrified and appalled about the potential repercussions” of the Bill and called on the Prime Minister to make urgent changes “even at this late stage”.

The letter was delivered to 10 Downing Street on 28 February, the day the Bill entered its final stages in the House of Lords. In it, the leaders state: “While there is still conflict and injustice in the world, there will always be desperate people needing to seek sanctuary from war, persecution and suffering. We cannot close our door on them, but this Bill does just that.

“We assert that the values that bind UK citizens together, especially those concerning human dignity and life, will be fundamentally damaged by this Bill.”

In the context of rising global conflict, including recent events in Ukraine, the way the Bill undermines the UK’s ability to support all people fleeing conflict is even more prominent.

The letter calls on the Mr Johnson to make substantial changes to the Bill, including abandoning the government’s plans to criminalise and restrict the rights of all people arriving in the UK seeking refugee protection outside pre-arranged schemes, including those coming via irregular routes, such as by boats or lorries.

The signatories say this policy was made “without a basis in evidence or morality” and assert that the government must urgently address the failure to establish safe routes through the Bill, which would help people seeking sanctuary reach the UK, saying that this failure fundamentally undermines its aims.

They urge the PM to be “compassionate and ambitious”’ in opening schemes such as family reunion, routes for unaccompanied refugee children in Europe and resettlement and call on him to show “political leadership” and promote “compassion, human life and dignity”.

The letter was coordinated by the ecumenical Joint Public Issues Team, made up of the Methodist Church in Britain, Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church, working with the Church of Scotland.

The letter and full list of signatories can be read here.