Church leaders across the UK have expressed their concern over the government’s proposals in the Illegal Migration Bill, which aims to deport all asylum seekers arriving via small boats across the Channel.
The proposal has drawn criticism from church leaders who have described it as inhumane and a violation of basic human rights.
Almost 1,500 church leaders have signed a letter, which was handed in at Downing Street by representatives of the group, expressing their opposition to the government’s proposals. The letter called on the government to reconsider its stance and urged the government to take a more compassionate approach towards asylum seekers.
The letter stated that the proposals in the Illegal Migration Bill would only serve to increase the suffering of vulnerable people who are already fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries. It also highlighted that the proposals would lead to a further strain on the already overstretched asylum system, and may result in asylum seekers being placed in detention centers, which are not fit for purpose.
The Methodist Public Issues Leader, Rev David Hardman, said: “If ever there was a contemporary example of ignoring our neighbor and walking by on the other side, this is it.
“On a moral level, these proposals lack compassion and respect for people’s dignity. On a practical level, they fail to see that punishing people who cross the channel in small boats without offering alternative safe routes will only cause pain and increase the backlog of people who are stuck in unfit accommodation here in the UK.
“Even whilst some MPs are pushing for further tightening of this cruel approach, we know that we can and must do better than this.
“Today we call on the government to lead the way to change by creating and implementing new safe routes by which people can come to the UK to seek sanctuary.”
Rev Steve Tinning, Public Issues Enabler for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: “Holy Week is not just a week for spiritual reflection; it is a call to political action.
“ On Palm Sunday, Jesus was welcomed with open arms and then betrayed when the price of being part of His movement of justice appeared too costly.
“On Good Friday, Jesus was laid bare on the cross while the world was exposed for its hostility and violence.
“On Easter Day death was defeated and the hope of life was declared. This Holy Week over 1450 Christian leaders are saying that the Illegal Migration Bill represents nothing of our Christian values of compassion, hospitality and mercy. It threatens the detention of innocent children, it offers no obligation to provide safe routes for those fleeing war and persecution, and it criminalises and punishes innocent victims.
“We implore the government to stop stoking fear and cease their jeers of rejection and hostility. Instead, we ask and pray that our nation might set a table and sacrificially make space for the other.”
The number of people arriving in the UK via small boats has increased in recent years, with over 8,400 people arriving in 2020 alone. The government’s proposals would mean that all those who arrive via small boats would be immediately detained and processed for deportation. The letter from church leaders has added to the growing chorus of voices calling on the government to reconsider its stance and to take a more compassionate approach towards asylum seekers.