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Catholics deplore government 'asylum ban'

Patrick Hudson - The Tablet - Wed, Mar 29th 2023

“The Illegal Immigration Bill would be turning our back on the global common,” said a statement from CSAN.

Catholics deplore government 'asylum ban'

Barbara Kentish of the Diocese of Westminster Justice and Peace Network speaks at the Home Office prayer vigil on Monday.
Johannes Maertens

More Catholic organisations have voiced their opposition to the government’s illegal immigration bill, which the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) has said would amount to “an asylum ban”. 

The bill would disqualify all arrivals via illegal routes from refugee protections under UK law.

Scotland’s bishops said that the bill “raises more questions than it provides answers” and “fails to provide sufficient detail on the establishment of more safe and legal routes for people seeking sanctuary in the UK”.

In a statement issued on 20 March, they said that safe routes for refugees “are essential if the government is serious about ending perilous Channel crossings”.

The bishops also called for reassurances that the government would meet its obligations to victims of modern slavery. Suella Baverman, the home secretary, has said that the bill would disqualify illegal arrivals from access to legal protections designed to combat trafficking. 

They urged the government to reform the asylum process, which currently has a backlog of more than 150,000 applications, and to “remember that behind each application is a human being”.

These people are our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters,” they said, “and regardless of their immigration status their intrinsic dignity must be upheld.”

The bishops’ intervention followed a statement from CSAN on 15 March, which warned that the bill would leave asylum seekers “in limbo, detained and denied a fair hearing”.

Signed by CSAN's chair, Bishop Terence Drainey of Middlesbrough, and its chief executive Raymond Friel, the statement pointed to Home Office data that shows that most of those who cross the Channel illegally come from war-torn countries.

“This bill would be turning our back on the global common good and adding to the burden of poorer countries, which receive most refugees,” it said.

“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.”

At a prayer vigil outside the Home Office on Monday, members of the Diocese of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, Caritas Westminster, the Conference of Religious and the Columban missionaries read out the names of those who had died seeking sanctuary in Europe and the UK.

They prayed that the UK would adhere to the European Convention of Human Rights, and for asylum seekers and “those who are working to rescue and welcome refugees arriving in Europe”.

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