Stop lowering the level of immigration debate, churches tell government

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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 of debate.

"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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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".
  3. 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.


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