Stop lowering the level of immigration debate, churches tell government
14 August 2015
Leaders of four UK Churches have called on the Government to
rethink the way it speaks about migrants.
Today leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church
of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church issued a
statement on the situation in Calais, emphasising the
importance of public debate being grounded in values of compassion
and of decisions being made on the basis of facts.
They called on the Government to adopt language which better
reflects the British values of compassion, hospitality and respect
for human dignity and to promote a more informed and higher level
"The language in which the Calais situation is being discussed
tends too often to demonise, denigrate or dehumanise the
individuals seeking refuge in Britain. To talk of those gathering
at Calais as a 'swarm', or 'marauding around the area' encourages
people to see those in desperation as less than human, and so less
deserving of sympathy, respect or dignity.
"The numbers involved do not warrant talk of an 'invasion' or
'flood' of migrants. The people at Calais represent a tiny fraction
of the overall number of migrants who have entered the EU in the
past year. In 2014, Germany took three times more asylum seekers
than the UK's 14,000, and Sweden twice as many. France, Italy and
Switzerland also granted asylum to more people than the UK.
"We welcome the affirmation by the Home Secretary that Europe
would 'always provide protection for those genuinely fleeing
conflict or persecution'. We share the concern of all involved to
see a peaceful and humane solution to this particular expression of
a far broader catastrophe."
The Churches have also asked the Government to recognise that
most migrants cannot be returned to their country of origin and to
accept the need for the UK to take its share of migrants.
- The statement was made by Vice-President of the Methodist
Conference Dr Jill Barber, General Secretary of the Baptist Union
of Great Britain The Revd Lynn Green, Moderator of the General
Assembly of the United Reformed Church The Revd David
Grosch-Miller, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland The Rt Revd Angus Morrison, and President of the Methodist
Conference The Revd Steve Wild. Find the full text
of the statement on the Joint Public Issues website.
- On 30 July the Prime Minister, David Cameron, described people
crossing the Mediterranean as "a swarm of people coming across the
Mediterranean seeking a better life". This was described as "awful,
dehumanising language from a world leader," by the Refugee Council.
Speaking to the BBC last week the Foreign Secretary, Philip
Hammond, said, "So long as there are large numbers of pretty
desperate migrants marauding around the area, there always will be
a threat to the tunnel security".
- The Joint Public Issues Team combines the expertise of the
Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the
United Reformed Church in the area of public issues. The team aims
to enable our four Churches to work together in living out the
gospel of Christ in the Church and in wider society. It aims to
promote equality and justice by influencing those in power and by
energising and supporting local congregations.