“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby
some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2.)
Sculpture by Timothy Schmalz in St Peter’s Square
Refugee Charities and the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales have united in their condemnation of the Illegal Migration Act which was passed earlier this week after proposed amendments by members of the House of Lords were defeated.
Caritas Bakhita House is part of a network of anti-human-trafficking organisations which have called the Act “cruel, inhumane and unworkable” and a “traffickers charter”.
Meanwhile Sarah Teather from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has said “In [this Bill], we have abandoned the principle of refugee protection, and denied that we have a duty to anyone else in the world. We haven’t even done this to achieve any useful end, but revelled in sheer performative cruelty.”
Along with JRS we are greatly disturbed by the idea that children could be incarcerated, and that desperate people who had no choice but to come to our country by irregular routes, will face harsh treatment instead of the welcome and compassion they need.
In a statement for the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees and chair of Caritas Westminster, Bishop Paul McAleenan said:
“This legislation stands at odds with the teaching of the Church on welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating refugees.
“Refugees are human beings made in the image and likeness of God, not a political problem to be solved. We must never make recognition of people’s dignity dependent upon where they come from or how they reach our country. The biblical call to love the stranger is unequivocal and indiscriminate.
“As a Church, we will continue to welcome those seeking sanctuary here and call for the expansion of safe routes. We urge our government to redouble its efforts to tackle factors such as conflict, persecution, and climate change that force people to flee their homes.”
The Catholic Social Action Network, CSAN, encourages all Catholics to keep on lobbying their MPs. Bishop Terry Drainey, the Chair of CSAN, said, “we call upon the Catholic community to speak out against this cruel Bill and write to their MPs urging them to work to expand safe routes for those seeking asylum.”
Read the statement that Caritas Bakhita House signed alongside other organisations fighting human trafficking before the Bill was passed
Earlier this year, the Department for International Affairs of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales published Love the Stranger, a Catholic response to refugees and migrants. CSAN responded with a call to action which you can read here.
We would encourage our supporters to look to the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday 24 September, and consider how their communities and parishes can respond.