Bishop Jonathan Writes About the Migrant Crisis, followed by a response from Battersea MP Jane Ellison
Over the last few weeks I’ve become very concerned, not only about the treatment of migrants at Calais and other Channel ports, but also with the way events are being reported.
Our faith teaches us to welcome the stranger, rather than dehumanise him or her. I worry about the welfare of those who have fled warfare and hunger in the hope of finding safety, only to be met with blanket refusal. It must be particularly difficult for women and children living in ‘pop up’ refugee camps, in conditions of extreme vulnerability.
But what are we to do? No-one is suggesting – and I’m certainly not – that the UK can just receive anyone who wants to come. On the other hand, we do have both a moral and a legal obligation to grant asylum to those genuinely fleeing persecution. But we have no way of knowing how many of the people trying to enter the UK are in that situation: we bar the door to all, without bothering to find out.
What is happening is the human consequence of events much further afield – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, and sub-Saharan Africa. It is the product of huge global inequality in wealth, security and opportunity. No one country can solve the problem, but neither can we claim that it’s nothing to do with us at all. This is a real dilemma, a problem without any obvious solution. I don’t have a proposal for a policy, but I do have a suggestion or two about how we go about looking for one.
For us as Christians, there’s one thing I think we should remember more than any other: when we stop seeing others as fully human we risk losing touch with our own humanity. God in Christ embraces our humanity in the incarnation, and invites all people to share in that redeeming love. We must never treat our fellow human beings as anything less than those who are infinitely loved by God. The Bible reminds us that mercy and justice belong together: we need both in order to feel for others in their suffering, and at the same time to try to do what is right and just. That’s not an easy place to be, but it’s where we must stand.
+ Jonathan Croydon
A Response from Parliament to the Refugee Crisis
In early September, Simon wrote to Jane Ellison, our MP, expressing his concern about the developing migrant crisis across Europe. In his email he said this,
I write in the briefest terms to urge Her Majesty’s Government to drastically improve its response to the unfolding refugee crisis. This is simply a matter of humanitarian compassion and should stand apart from longer term strategic or political considerations.
The unfortunate language of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor in recent days has focused on long term solutions to a long term problem. Be that as it may, people are dying in significant numbers in a simple attempt to flee from war and violence, and Britain has a long-standing tradition of receiving such people with open-handed generosity. Such generosity has been significantly absent from the words and actions of ministers in recent weeks and this something I believe the Government should change with immediate effect.
I urge you to advocate such a change in policy in the strongest terms. Human dignity and Christian compassion demand it.
Ms Ellison has kindly written two responses, the latter of which is set out below. Members of St Mary’s are encouraged to consider responding to Jane’s suggestions and to continue to lobby the government, should we consider the UK’s response inadequate.
You contacted me recently about the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis.
As you know, I very much share your concerns about the plight of those who have fled, or have been displaced by, the conflict in Syria. I am very pleased the Government has expanded the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, so that the UK will accept 20,000 refugees from the camps around Syria over the next five years, and increased our bilateral international development contributions to support humanitarian efforts in the region.
A number of constituents have contacted me with kind offers to assist those affected by the conflict in Syria, either by offering refugees coming to the UK accommodation in their homes, or by donating money and other items to registered charities supporting humanitarian efforts in the camps in the region. In my last update, I mentioned that Ministers were working with charities, churches, and wider civil society, to understand how some of the many kind offers can be used, and that they would announce further details on next steps.
Last week, the Home Secretary updated Parliament on the progress to co-ordinate the support to Syrian refugees coming to the UK, which you can read here. As you will see, the Home Secretary confirmed that a dedicated UK Government webpage has been established, with information on a range of ways in which people can contribute to the humanitarian relief efforts in the region and Europe. In addition, alongside the Red Cross, the Government has set up a free help line for anyone who wants advice on the ways in which they can be of assistance to Syrians in need of protection in the UK. This is 0800 107 872.
As you might have seen, the first new refugees from Syria arrived in the UK this week. I am pleased that the Government remains committed to resettling very many more vulnerable Syrians over the coming months and years, as well as assisting those in the region and supporting diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict.
I hope that this is helpful, and please do share this information with anyone who might find it of interest.
Jane Ellison MP