Bishop stands against Nationality and Borders Bill with Faith LeadersTuesday 1st March 2022
Bishop John has joined other faith leaders to express horror over the Nationality and Borders Bill, and calls on the prime minister to urgently rethink the “manifestly unjust” legislation.
More than 1,000 faith leaders, representing the six major faith groups in the UK, said they are ‘horrified and appalled about the potential repercussions’ of the Bill and called on the Prime Minister to make urgent changes ‘even at this late stage’.
Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester on Monday evening, Bishop John said: “The Bill, as it stands, makes it impossible for some people to claim asylum or be refugees, and these two classes of migrants they want to introduce in the Bill seems to be so unjustified.
“We are dealing with people who are desperate and we’ve got to help them to have sustainable lives and to have some sort of peace after the traumas that they’ve experienced.”
The letter, published on Monday 28 February, the day the Bill enters its final stages in the House of Lords – is a crucial last opportunity to make changes – and states: ‘While there is still conflict and injustice in the world, there will always be desperate people needing to seek sanctuary from war, persecution and suffering. We cannot close our door on them, but this Bill does just that.’
‘We assert that the values that bind UK citizens together, especially those concerning human dignity and life, will be fundamentally damaged by this Bill.’
In the context of rising global conflict, including this week in Ukraine, the way the bill undermines the UK’s ability to support all people fleeing conflict is even more prominent.
The letter calls on the Prime Minister to make substantial changes to the Bill. These include abandoning the government’s plans to criminalise and restrict the rights of all people arriving in the UK seeking refugee protection outside pre-arranged schemes, including those coming via irregular routes, such as by boats or lorries.
The signatories say this policy was made ‘without a basis in evidence or morality’.
The signatories also assert that the government must urgently address the failure to establish safe routes through the Bill, which would help people seeking sanctuary reach the UK, saying that this failure fundamentally undermines its aims.
Bishop John said: “Safe routes need to be accorded to everybody who is in this desperate state of needing to leave home.
“To exclude those people who are not on these safe routes – and it’s not clear in the Bill how those safe routes are going to be established – then we are criminalising people who are really on the edges of any form of compassion or understanding in their lives, and that’s just not acceptable.”
The letter urges the Prime Minister to be ‘compassionate and ambitious ’ in opening schemes such as family reunion, routes for unaccompanied refugee children in Europe and resettlement.
The letter calls on the Prime Minister to show ‘political leadership’ and promote ‘compassion, human life and dignity’.
Faith leaders have asked the Prime Minister to meet to discuss their concerns.
The letter was coordinated by the ecumenical Joint Public Issues Team, made up of the Methodist Church in Britain, Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church, working with the Church of Scotland.
You can read the full letter online by clicking here.