Caritas Social Action Network says it is profoundly concerned about the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, which was introduced in the House of Commons in March.
A letter signed by CSAN chair Bishop Terry says that if passed, the bill will not only deny those people fleeing war and persecution their right to seek safety in the UK and apply for asylum but will punish them based on how they came here, not whether they need protection.
CSAN also says the bill would remove the right to seek refugee protection in the UK for those who arrive irregularly, breach the UN Refugee Convention, fail to provide safe routes and leave thousands of men, women and children in limbo, detained and denied a fair hearing.
The UNHCR, the refugee agency of the United Nations, has expressed its profound concern about the proposed bill, stating: “The effect of the bill (in this form) would be to deny a fair hearing and to deny protection to many genuine refugees in need of safety and asylum.
“This would be a clear breach of the Refugee Convention and undermines the United Kingdom’s longstanding, humanitarian traditions.”
CSAN’s letter says: “The bill ignores Home Office data, which shows that most people who cross the Channel are people escaping torture and conflict from countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Syria.
“Most people who make the crossing are granted asylum following rigorous checks. There are very few safe routes for refugees to come to the UK.
“This bill would be turning our back on the global common good and adding to the burden on poorer countries, which receive most refugees.”
The Department for International Affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, recently published Love the Stranger: A Catholic Response to Migrants and Refugees.
This document sets out several key principles, including:
· The dignity of the human person is at the root of our response to migrants and refugees.
· The right of a state to control its borders, but not based on economic factors alone – we have a responsibility to the wider world.
· Avoiding the use of immigration detention, arbitrary expulsion and other practices which violate human dignity.
· The need to fulfil our obligations under international frameworks protecting migrants and refugees, such as the Refugee Convention.
“We encourage the Catholic community to engage with this document as a source of inspiration for our response to the bill,” said CSAN.
“We urge the Catholic community to speak out against this cruel and unworkable bill, which is an affront to human dignity and a breach of our responsibilities to the global common good and our obligations under international law.”
CSAN called on Catholics to write to their MPs, asking them to protect rather than punish refugees by defending their fundamental right to seek asylum, stand up for the UN Refugee Convention and ensure the government provides alternatives to dangerous journeys, including safe routes.
“We strongly urge the government to reconsider this bill and instead pursue more humane and workable policy solutions which respect the dignity and rights of migrating people.”
You can read the full document at cbcew.org.uk/love-the-stranger.