21 May 2001

Asylum in the UK

Open letter from the President of the Methodist Conference to the leader of the Conservative Party.

Right Hon W Hague 
Leader of the Conservative Party 
The Conservative Party Office 
Great Smith Street, 
London

Dear Mr Hague

OPEN LETTER

I welcome your commitment to providing "sanctuary to those who are fleeing injustice and wrong." I see Christian charity and natural justice in this. I am sure people of good faith and good will agree.

I regret your proposal to compulsorily detain all asylum seekers. I see no Christian charity or natural justice in this proposal. Indeed it contradicts God's call to "love mercy and to act justly" as a demonstration of good faith, good will and obedience to God's way. (Micah 6:8).

I have visited several Detention Centres and prisons holding asylum seekers. I have seen nothing in these visits to persuade me that detention of people who are not criminals is good practice.

If seeking a better life and security is a crime then we are all guilty. Is it not the purpose of politics and faith to enable all to have fulness of life?

Detention is imprisonment, Such a restriction of freedom is wrong and inhumane. The use of Detention Centres should be phased out speedily. The use of conventional prisons to detain asylum seekers who are not criminals should be discontinued forthwith. Detention is not a humane, economic or effective way to deal with immigration. Detention is not a deterrent.

It was extremely provocative of you to go to Dover to make your asylum speech. It is insensitive of you to continue to use the term 'bogus' to refer to asylum seekers whose cases have not been decided. You promised a group of church leaders who met with you in your office to refrain from using racist language in the election debate. I respectfully ask you to observe this commitment.

Let us have an honest debate on immigration and asylum issues but you must not in the process seek to gain from or to stir up xenophobic hysteria. It is more important for you as a national leader to challenge racist attitudes and behaviour.

Peace be with you,

Rev Inderjit Bhogal, 
President, Methodist Conference

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