On 24 March 2021, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced the government’s New Plan for Immigration (NPFI), which was launched alongside a consultation on the proposals. Following the closure of the consultation on 6 May 2021, the government is planning to introduce a bill to enshrine the proposals into UK law.
As a coalition of Christian faith groups and faith leaders brought together by the St Vincent de Paul Society (England & Wales), we believe these proposals lack humanity and respect for human dignity. We believe it would be wrong to create a system in which the way people enter the UK will impact how their asylum claim is processed and the status they might receive.
Many people who are forced to flee their homes in desperate circumstances simply have no choice but to cross borders informally to reach a safe haven; to penalise them for this is to abandon the very principle of international protection. Moves to criminalise and penalise undocumented entry to the UK set out in the NPFI mean it will effectively be impossible for most people to claim asylum in the UK because safe and legal routes for claiming asylum in the UK are extremely limited, and could never feasibly be made available to all who need them. We cannot ignore their plight and reduce it to a statistical act of bureaucracy.
This nation has a long history of welcoming people from all over the world. People who have arrived in our communities through the asylum system are our neighbours, members of our congregations and valued members of our neighbourhoods. We should recognise our common interests of family, community and faith, and embrace the diversity which makes our communities dynamic and vibrant. We call for a rejection of hostility towards people seeking asylum and an end to punitive measures aimed at people who are seeking sanctuary in our country.
We welcome the government’s commitment to resettlement through the new UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) and look forward to the announcement of resettlement targets for the years to come, but this must not be at the expense of an asylum system that strives to offer protection to those who need it. We urge the Home Secretary to embed principles of welcome, protection and integration into the government’s policies. We must treat individuals and families seeking sanctuary on our shores as our brothers and sisters and valued members of our communities. How we respond to those in need has profound implications for who we are as a society. Recognising our obligations to those who seek sanctuary is fundamental to building a just and flourishing nation.
The open statement is supported by over 80 signatories from Christian denominations and other faiths. Signatories include the Jesuit Refugee Service, Caritas Diocese of Salford, Caritas Shrewsbury, Joint Public Issues Team, Jubilee+, Welcome Churches, the Salvation Army, Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network, UK Welcomes Refugees, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the United Free Church of Scotland and Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham.