Updated 22 April
During Holy Week, the UK government announced its plans to send people seeking asylum in this country to Rwanda, where their asylum requests would be processed by local authorities there instead. Such plans would effectively exile those who have come to the UK seeking sanctuary (many of whom have already been forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution) to places such as Rwanda, where they will be detained whilst their asylum claims are looked into – with little safeguards offered against potential human rights infringements and abuses.
Caritas Westminster condemns policies such as ‘offshoring’ asylum claims, which are both lacking in compassion and respect for human dignity. John Coleby, Director of Caritas Westminster says,
“Caritas Westminster stands in solidarity with all people who seek humane and just solutions for those fleeing conflict and persecution. We are dismayed at the Government’s plans to deport those seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda for resettlement. This is clearly a case of punishing the victim, not the perpetrator, and does little to recognise the underlying causes of why people are forced to migrate.
“The policy falls far too short of being compassionate and fair, and will serve only to undermine the innate God-given humanity and dignity of those individuals who will be affected by it.”
In his homily at the Easter Vigil – whereby he spoke of the various injustices afflicting individuals around the world – Cardinal Vincent Nichols, too, referenced the new policy, and called on Catholics to,
“Pray that those who seek solutions do so with compassion, and with regard for the dignity which is innate to every human being. This week’s policy announcement simply lacks these qualities.”
Bishop Paul McAleenan, the lead bishop on Migration and Refugee issues and chair of Caritas Westminster has also spoken out saying
“The UK Government and the whole international community, motivated by the desire to uphold the dignity of human life, need to address the problems which cause people to flee their homes.
“We pray for all refugees whose sole aim is to survive each day. Led by the Christian spirit, manifested so powerfully at Easter, we should help and not discourage them.”
This policy proposal is part of wider government immigration reform, embodied by the Nationality and Borders Bill, which was debated in the House of Commons on Wednesday 20th April. Unfortunately MPs voted against the amendments which had been tabled by the House of Lords, and which would have made some improvements. If passed in its current form, the Bill would create a plethora of new barriers for refugees seeking sanctuary in the UK, rather than addressing the root causes of forced migration and trafficking.
Caritas Westminster, once again, calls upon the UK government to implement a compassionate and just asylum system, rooted in our common humanity, with the following issues addressed:
- The asylum system should never penalise people for arriving spontaneously or without documents, or differentiate asylum claims on the basis of how people got here. Most refugees have no choice of how they travel.
- Asylum claimants should have safe and dignified accommodation within British communities.
- Secure safe routes to the UK and prevent dangerous Channel crossings. We need ambitious, compassionate and detailed plans that will meaningfully expand safe routes to the UK for refugees – until then, people will continue to risk dangerous journeys to reach protection and loved ones.
In his Urbi et Orbi address on Easter Sunday, Pope Francis said,
“Amid the pain of the war, there are also encouraging signs, such as the open doors of all those families and communities that are welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe. May these numerous acts of charity become a blessing for our societies, at times debased by selfishness and individualism, and help to make them welcoming to all.”
There is still time for you to make a difference – join us and our partners in making our society one which is welcoming to all, by opposing the Nationality and Borders Bill today, and calling on your MP to do the same, by clicking here!
For more information about:
- The Nationality and Borders Bill and its potential impact on our asylum system, click here.
- An Easter reflection on the Nationality and Borders Bill from Caritas Bakhita House and the anti-slavery movement.
- Volunteering at projects supporting asylum seekers and refugees, click here.