27 November 2003

Methodist concern at Government plans to 'toughen up' asylum rules

The Methodist Church has voiced its concern about new proposals for dealing with asylum seekers announced today in the Queen's Speech. The Methodist Church has, alongside many other denominations and faiths, long expressed concern for the treatment of people seeking asylum in this country. Many Methodists are involved in providing help and support through church and community-based projects.

Anthea Cox, a spokesperson for the Methodist Church says: "We have made a detailed response to the Government's proposals to asylum reform. Many Methodists are actively working alongside asylum seekers and will be aware of the human misery that may be caused by the proposed approach. These proposals pose potential dangers and human rights abuses."

Ms Cox, Methodist Secretary for Public Life & Social Justice, continued, "We question whether a policy that would prevent people from receiving benefits and therefore deliberately making people destitute can ever be justified. Whilst we recognise that at the end of a full and fair determination system those without a claim to asylum must return home we can see evidence that the current system is far from 'full and fair.' There is a lack of confidence in the initial decision making process and a reduced right of appeal. This will be made worse by removing access to legal aid for those seeking asylum another worrying aspect of the proposed bill."

The Rev Dr Peter Byass, Chair of the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF), added: "Of particular concern is that these proposals may mean the children of asylum seekers being taken into care. This could be viewed as an attempt to involve children as pawns in the traumatic process of repatriation and is totally unacceptable. Any policy that may lead to the splitting up of families is fundamentally unjust and against civilised humanitarian principles."

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