24 August 2021
"We believe that our country has a moral and legal obligation to provide sanctuary for those at risk of persecution"
At the request of the Methodist Conference, the President and Vice-President have written to the Home Secretary with regard to the Nationality and Borders Bill currently before parliament.
The Rt Hon Priti Patel, M.P.
Secretary of State for the Home Department
2 Marsham Street
18 August 2021
Dear Home Secretary,
We are writing on behalf of the Methodist Church in Britain. The Conference of the Methodist Church meeting on 24 June to 1 July 2021 has requested that we write to you with regard to the Nationality and Borders Bill currently before parliament.
We believe that our country has a moral and legal obligation to provide sanctuary for those at risk of persecution. We also believe that people seeking asylum in the UK should be treated with fairness and respect, and that refugees should be welcomed and integrated into our communities. This is work of which our churches are proud to play a part.
We are therefore disappointed that the policies outlined in the Nationality and Borders Bill put these intentions at risk, by altering the way that the UK chooses to welcome those fleeing persecution and conflict. Many of the measures outlined in this proposed legislation risk creating more injustice in the UK’s asylum system, which will only increase the trauma and pain experienced by asylum seekers attempting to reach safety in the UK.
Attempts to streamline the asylum process are clearly necessary due to the backlog in case processing. However, the policies outlined risk creating a process which does not sympathetically handle the often traumatic circumstances and complexities of each person’s case. We must have an asylum system which treats people with dignity and respect, especially when they are vulnerable, and yet these proposals risk creating conditions which do the opposite.
The proposal to create a ‘two-tier’ asylum system, offering a selected few sanctuary and denying it to many others, undermines a principle we hold deeply that all people are created equal and all should be entitled to equal rights and respect under the law. To subject already vulnerable people to rapid removal, temporary protection and limited rights simply on the basis of their route to the UK fails to carry out the duty of care we have over one another. It creates uncertainty for families seeking safety and perpetuates a culture of distrust of those seeking sanctuary.
Furthermore, many experts argue that these policies undermine the UK’s obligations under international law to uphold the rights of refugees and offer sanctuary, under the UN Refugee Convention. With the Convention celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, in the face of current conflict around the world it is increasingly important that we recognise and champion the rights and dignity of people fleeing persecution and conflict.
We urge the government to outline targets for future resettlement of refugees and to set out how the UK will uphold its international and moral obligations. Refugee resettlement is an important part of our response to global crises and conflicts. It is vital that the UK government does more to ensure that we not only meet but exceed previous commitments.
Currently, over half of asylum applications are accepted in the UK on initial application or appeal. Individuals and families seeking asylum are likely to become part of our communities at some stage. Policies which hinder their wellbeing throughout the asylum process could prove detrimental to their future flourishing, and limit potential for healthy integration into our communities.
As Christians, we believe that we are called to treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve because of their inherent worth as God-created beings. However, these proposals risk jeopardising this severely. As a Church which seeks to offer sanctuary, witness to God’s love and stand for justice, we must speak up for human dignity and flourishing. We ask you to review these policies, and seek more just and fair alternatives.
Revd Sonia Hicks
President of the Methodist Conference 2021/2022
Mrs Barbara Easton
Vice-President of the Methodist Conference 2021/2022