Stop lowering the level of immigration debate, churches tell government


Leaders of four UK Churches have called on the Government torethink the way it speaks about migrants.

Today leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Churchof Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church issued astatement on the situation in Calais, emphasising theimportance of public debate being grounded in values of compassionand of decisions being made on the basis of facts.

They called on the Government to adopt language which betterreflects the British values of compassion, hospitality and respectfor human dignity and to promote a more informed and higher levelof debate.

"The language in which the Calais situation is being discussedtends too often to demonise, denigrate or dehumanise theindividuals seeking refuge in Britain. To talk of those gatheringat Calais as a 'swarm', or 'marauding around the area' encouragespeople to see those in desperation as less than human, and so lessdeserving 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 fractionof the overall number of migrants who have entered the EU in thepast year. In 2014, Germany took three times more asylum seekersthan the UK's 14,000, and Sweden twice as many. France, Italy andSwitzerland also granted asylum to more people than the UK.

"We welcome the affirmation by the Home Secretary that Europewould 'always provide protection for those genuinely fleeingconflict or persecution'. We share the concern of all involved tosee a peaceful and humane solution to this particular expression ofa far broader catastrophe."

The Churches have also asked the Government to recognise thatmost migrants cannot be returned to their country of origin and toaccept the need for the UK to take its share of migrants.


  1. The statement was made by Vice-President of the MethodistConference Dr Jill Barber, General Secretary of the Baptist Unionof Great Britain The Revd Lynn Green, Moderator of the GeneralAssembly of the United Reformed Church The Revd DavidGrosch-Miller, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church ofScotland The Rt Revd Angus Morrison, and President of the MethodistConference The Revd Steve Wild. Find the full textof the statement on the Joint Public Issues website.
  2. On 30 July the Prime Minister, David Cameron, described peoplecrossing the Mediterranean as "a swarm of people coming across theMediterranean 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, PhilipHammond, said, "So long as there are large numbers of prettydesperate migrants marauding around the area, there always will bea threat to the tunnel security".
  3. The Joint Public Issues Team combines the expertise of theBaptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and theUnited Reformed Church in the area of public issues. The team aimsto enable our four Churches to work together in living out thegospel of Christ in the Church and in wider society. It aims topromote equality and justice by influencing those in power and byenergising and supporting local congregations.