21 June 2018

Churches urge end to ‘hostile environment’ policies

A group of major Churches is launching a campaign to challenge the government’s approach to illegal immigration, which they say is leading to destitution, discrimination and distrust. 

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have joined forces to call on the government to review entirely the web of policies that have created the hostile environment. In a new report for church members, Destitution, Discrimination and Distrust: the web of the hostile environment, they set out how aspects of the policies run counter to Christian teaching.

The campaign follows recent revelations about how British citizens such as members of the ‘Windrush generation’ have lost their homes, jobs and access to NHS treatment because of the policies. But the report argues that the web of the hostile environment reaches much further.

Speaking on behalf of the denominations, the church leaders the Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Revd Richard Frazer, convenor of the Church and Society Committee of the Church of Scotland, the Revd Loraine N Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference and the Revd Kevin Watson and Alan Yates, Moderators of the United Reformed Church, said:

″As a group of Church denominations, the injustices of the hostile environment alarm us. The impact of the hostile environment has gone well beyond immigrants who are in the country illegally. It is of deep concern that people who do not look or sound ‘British’ are now facing increased levels of discrimination in finding homes and employment.

″We believe it is inhumane to use the threat of destitution as a policy tool to encourage people to leave the country and we call for an immediate end to indefinite detention.

″This is not about who we do or do not allow into the UK, but about how we relate to one another inside our borders. Due process, justice and the proper implementation of immigration policies should not require us to live in suspicion of our neighbour. The hostile environment spins a web of distrust and encourages suspicion. As Christians we believe that God calls us to offer welcome to the stranger and care for the vulnerable, whoever they are.

″Many of our churches support those who have suffered hardship as a result of the hostile environment. Our churches include some of the very people who are at risk of destitution and discrimination. Our Christian faith moves us to pray and work for a society where people are truly hospitable to one another.

″We are therefore calling for a review of immigration policy and practice to examine the damaging effects that the hostile environment is having on the whole of society.″

The campaign launches during Refugee Week and will run over four weeks with a report, stories, infographics and films of how a range of people have been affected by the hostile environment. On social media the hashtag #EndHostility will be used.

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