21 March 2005
A Place of Refuge - a positive approach to asylum seekers and refugees in the UK advances a Christian case for asylum policies based on compassion and solidarity. The report, published by the Mission and Public Affairs Council today, explains the legal basis of the asylum system and examines the economic and other contributions made to the UK by asylum seekers and refugees. In the process it casts doubt on many popular assumptions and stereotypes.
“Whatever the problems involved in framing a just system to deal with their claims, asylum seekers and refugees are fellow human beings with much to offer to our society,” says the Rt Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark and Vice-Chair, Public Affairs, of the Council, in his foreword to the report.
“The report,” says Bishop Tom, “does not attempt to tackle the larger question of immigration. Nor does it advocate a programme for wholesale reform of the asylum system. Nevertheless, by focusing on the people who are driven to seek asylum, it provides an informed and humane contribution to the larger debate.”
Two factors are often in short supply in debates on asylum, says the Bishop of Southwark,. “First, an acknowledgement of our moral and legal obligations towards people who have fled from their own country as a result of persecution and other serious threats, and second, a clear grasp of the facts behind the statistics which are bandied about.”
A Place of Refuge outlines its theological basis before exploring the economic, spiritual, cultural and personal contributions made by refugees. It shows the large and variable range of economic contributions made and argues that to aggregate them is to present a misleading snapshot of current figures. It then compares the economic contribution made to the economic cost of refugees to the UK. After focusing on some of the gender-related aspects of asylum seeking, the report offers suggestions for action for churches and Christian groups.
A Place of Refuge is available in .pdf format on the Church of England website.
A Place of Refuge - a positive approach to asylum seekers and refugees in the UK is published by Church House Publishing, priced £5.99, and is available from all Christian bookshops and Church House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel. 020-7898 1300, e-mail email@example.com, or on the web at: www.chbookshop.co.uk (mail order available).
Some Church of England involvement in work with asylum seekers
GARAS(Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers), which works with about 400 asylum seekers a year, was founded by the Church and is now an independent Charity.
Contact Adele Owen, Director, tel 01452 550528.
PARS(Portsmouth Area Refugee Support) is chaired by the Rev Nick Ralph, social responsibility adviser in Portsmouth Diocese. PARS provides a drop-in facility for refugees and asylum seekers each week. Free legal advice and supplies of food and drink are given to people who are in desperate need.
Contact Rev Nick Ralph, tel 023 9282 1137.
Work co-ordinated through the Blackburn Diocesan Board for Social Responsibility and Churches Together in Blackburn with Darwen, has a particular focus in organising social events, both to give asylum seekers a rare occasion of celebration and to put them in touch with each other.
Contact John East (a member of the URC church and churches' co-ordinator for asylum seekers in Blackburn with Darwen), tel 07885 595 189.
St. Brides Church, Old Trafford. Weekly drop-in offering a place of welcome and support for asylum seekers and refugees. Offers English teaching, and the opportunity to practice spoken English.
Contact George Briggs, tel 0161 226 4513.
St Albans Diocese, through the Board for Church and Society, supports the Yarlswood Befrienders Project in Bedford, which exists to provide friendship and moral support to detainees held at the detention centre in Bedford.
Contact Lawrie Coe, tel 01923 674460.
St Albans also supports the Watford and Three Rivers Refugee Project, which works with refugees/asylum seekers in the southern part of the diocese, with a base in Watford.
GYROS(Great Yarmouth Refugee Outreach Support) a church-based group that liases with agencies and social services to deliver a demand led approach to the provision of practical help and support for refugees.
Contact Paul McDonough, Church Army, tel 01493 851463.
An asylum seekers centre at St Mary Magdalene, Holloway Road, London providing English lessons, cookery, creche and clothing exchange among other services.
Contact Geraldine Khumalo, tel 020 7609 2616.