Asylum in the UK

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

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

Dear Mr Hague


I welcome your commitment to providing "sanctuary to those whoare fleeing injustice and wrong." I see Christian charity andnatural justice in this. I am sure people of good faith and goodwill agree.

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

I have visited several Detention Centres and prisons holdingasylum seekers. I have seen nothing in these visits to persuade methat detention of people who are not criminals is goodpractice.

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

Detention is imprisonment, Such a restriction of freedom iswrong and inhumane. The use of Detention Centres should be phasedout speedily. The use of conventional prisons to detain asylumseekers who are not criminals should be discontinued forthwith.Detention is not a humane, economic or effective way to deal withimmigration. Detention is not a deterrent.

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

Let us have an honest debate on immigration and asylum issuesbut you must not in the process seek to gain from or to stir upxenophobic hysteria. It is more important for you as a nationalleader to challenge racist attitudes and behaviour.

Peace be with you,

Rev Inderjit Bhogal, 
President, Methodist Conference