A Christian presence in every community

Immigration and asylum

The Church, migration and refugees

July 2017

We are delighted that Nadine Daniel has joined us as National Refugee Welcome Coordinator. She has lots of experience of this area, having come from a job in the same field in the Liverpool diocese. Nadine will be especially supporting churches, deaneries etc who are interested in getting stuck in to the Community Sponsorship scheme, taking responsibility (with partners) for welcoming, hosting and integrating refugees from the Syrian conflict. You can contact Nadine - nadine.daniel@churchofengland.org

Here Nadine introduces herself!

December 2016

Here are guidelines for churches and ministers about supporting those who are applying for asylum.

We're sure they can be improved - do send any suggestions to one of the two people named on the document - thanks.

August 2016

There's a march coming up in London on Saturday 17th September, calling on the government to do more for refugees. Churches around the country are doing what we can to work with local authorities and others, to welcome refugees and to prepare for welcoming more.  Not just refugees - asylum seekers need practical and other support as well, without forgetting so many people who are British citizens and have needs to which we won't turn a blind eye while focussing on the needs of people from other countries.

Some Church of England leaders along with many other faith and community leaders will be there

Info on the march -

http://swruk.org/refugees-welcome-here-2016/#logistics

and/or have a look at the Facebook page -

https://www.facebook.com/events/1563121147327378/

And spread the word. If you're messaging on social media, use this - #WeStandWithYou.

... oh and CAFOD, along with Christian Aid, are putting on a simple prayer service before the march: a good place to rendezvous before joining the march.  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/welcoming-the-stranger-an-ecumenical-service-of-hope-for-refugees-tickets-27150534981

 

July 2016

25th - If you are interested in the 'Full Community Sponsorship' option, welcoming refugees into your community and taking responsibility for supporting them, you can now apply! Any charity or community interest company can apply, and so faith communities are well placed.  You need to work with your local authority, and to be able to show you can spend £9k p.a. on each person, plus providing a lot of other forms of vital support. The refugees chosen for this scheme will be identiified by UNHCR as being among the most vulnerable, so you need to be realistic about what full community sponsorship will mean.

All the information you need is on the government website - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apply-for-full-community-sponsorship

21st - The Immigration Minister has announced the closure of the Cedars pre-departure accommodation for families with children who are being removed. Read our comment here.

19th - At Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Home Secretary launched the Full Community Sponsorship scheme. Brilliant to have this in place after 10 months of hard work by the cross-government team and a lot of partners including the Church of England. More information soon ...

The clue is inthe word 'Full', which has been added recently.  It's a big commitment.

May 2016

The remote community of Rothesay, on the island of Bute, in western Scotland, has welcomed refugees from Syria under the resettlment scheme. An Anglican church member, Alison Clark, writes about what it was like here.

Community sponsorship of Syrian refugees (sometimes known as private sponsorship) is almost upon us. It is being piloted, and will go public soon (in June?). Here is our round-up of the latest information, for those who might want to get involved.

April 2016

It was brilliant when the government in 2010 stopped the detention of children in Immigration Removal Centres. There is a real chance to help the well-being and safety of pregnant women now. Read about the opportunity which Parliament has here.Update - since this post,  the government has responded with much tighter retrictions on detention of pregnant women. Great.

February 2016

Here are five factsheets to help your local church to get involved in supporting refugees resettled under the government scheme.

September 2015

The Mission Theology Advisory Group (MTAG) has produced a great resource for thinking theologically about migration.  Read it here.

The Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Archbishops' Council has issued guidance for churches wanting to do something about supporting refugees here and now - it's here.

Advice on supporting refugees

A Prayer for the Refugee Crisis

A selection of recent responses to the refugee crisis

February

How churches can  help the most vulnerable refugees (29th February)

December

Reflections from the 'Jungle' migrant camp in Calais (22nd December)

October

Bishop of Southwark speaks on Syrian refugee crisis (30th October)

Bishops call on Prime Minister to provide "meaningful and substantial response" to refugee crisis (17th October)

Bishop of Guildford backs calls for Council to increase refugee response (13th October)

Chichester Bishops announce further plans to help refugees (9th October)

Diocese of Winchester launches dual appeal to support refugees from Syria and victims of flooding in Myanmar (8th October)

Guildford Parishes respond to refugee crisis with PEACE (2nd October)

September

The Bishop of Guildford speaks about the refugee crisis in the CofE podcast (30th September)

Responding to the Refugee Crisis - Letter from Bishop Stephen and Bishop David, Ely Diocese (29th September)

'Strangely, we ourselves are being blessed' -  how the Anglican Church in Europe is helping refugees Blog (28th September)

Judging a good response to the Refugee Crisis Blog (25th September)

Bishop of Guildford calls for higher allocation of refugees to UK (25th September)

Bishop of Norwich launches Refugee Crisis Appeal in Norfolk and Waveney (24th September)

'We can't solve the refugee crisis - but we can welcome people who come here afraid, alone and with nothing' Blog (24th September)

Responding to the refugee crisis: a view from the Anglican Church in Greece Blog (23rd September)

Supporting Refugees at Worcester Cathedral (23rd September)

London's parishes unite in support of refugees (18th September)

Interview with a church project supporting refugees in the CofE podcast (18th september)

Salisbury Churches Respond to Refugee Crisis (16th September)

BBC Somerset interviews Bishop Peter Hancock on the ongoing refugee crisis and the government and church response. (13th September)


Nick Baines: Compassion for refugees is not just a short-term fix (11th September)

A welcome for refugees: a message from the Church Leaders in the North East (11th September)

Bishop of Chelmsford launches appeal as churches respond to Syria refugee crisis (11th September)

Southwark Diocese responds to the refugee crisis (8th September)

Lancashire's Anglican Bishops speak about refugee crisis (8th September)

The Bishop of Sheffield speaks out on refugee crisis (9th September)

Lancashire's Anglican Bishops speak about refugee crisis (8th September)

Refugee crisis: statement from the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, the Dean of York (4th September)

Bishop of Croydon talks about the refugee crisis in the CofE podcast (4th September)

Archbishop of Canterbury's statement on the migrant crisis (3rd September)

Bishop of Leeds blog on refugee crisis (3rd September)

Witney couple talk about delivering aid to Calais camp (3rd September)

August

Truro church visit to Calais camp in the weekly podcast (20th August)

Truro church heading to Calais to deliver donations (17th August)

A trip through Calais: 'Our jubilant holiday mood was replaced by a sombre and uncomfortable silence' Archdeacon Jan Macfarlane in the Eastern Daily Press (14th August)

Church of England defends Songs of Praise filmed in Calais migrant camp (12th August)

Bishop of Dover calls for humanitarian response to the crisis (1st August)

We Are Surely Not Yet a Nation Whose Instinctive Response Is to Say 'Our Door Is Closed'Bishop of Norwich in the Huffington Post (23rd June)

Bishop of Manchester calls for compassion for refugees (25th April)
News report on above comment piece (25th April)

Archbishop Justin calls for Europe-wide response to the crisis (20th April)

Bishop of Leeds letter to PM (16th August 2014)
News report on above letter (16th August 2014)

Bishops urge Government to grant asylum to Iraqi Christians (2nd August 2014)

Archbishop Justin responds to crisis on Twitter:
1st September
8th August

Asylum support

The Home Office has conducted a Consultation on proposed changes to asylum support. The MPA Council submitted a response.

 

October 2014

The Parliamentary Inquiry into Immigration Detention, a cross-party investigaiton chaired by Sarah Teather MP, is taking a thorough and timely look at the conditions in which people are detained.

We have made a submission to this Inquiry, based on evidence from chaplains, people who have been detained, members of Independent Monitoring Boards, staff and others.  You can read it here.

June 2014

Should asylum applicants have the right to work?  General Synod thinks so - more details here

April 2014

The Churches Refugee Network* held its annual conference in Sheffield on 5th April.  There was unanimous support for a Position Statement, setting out a range of opinions shared by those attending the conference.  The context for the Statement is the Immigration Bill which is currently in the latter stages of its progress through Parliament, and a real desire on the part of many Christians to shift the terms of the debate on asylum and immigration, so that in this pre-election period the positive messages of the Bible on treatment of 'strangers in your midst' are heard and re-affirmed at a time when there is much anti-immigration rhetoric.

You can read the Position Statement here.

* - the Churches Refugee Network is one of the networks of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.  The Chair of CRN is the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, and a number of Anglicans are actively involved with it.

January 2014

The Immigration Bill arrives in the Lords on 10th February, for its Second Reading.  It has been held up by the furore about people from eastern European countries seeking jobs.  Then the debate about mandatory deportation of 'foreign criminals (whether or not they have family here, and perhaps whether or not they have been given citizenship) has also distracted parliamentarians, perhaps, from the complex content of the Bill.  The bishops and others in the House of Lords will now have the opportunity to take a closer look at the full range of measures.  Click here for a briefing paper, summarising every part of the Bill with comments.

 

December 2013

The Immigration Bill
This Bill has gone through the House of Commons, and will come into the Lords in January 2014. Its passage through the Commons was pretty smooth - largely because all three main parties are keen to show the public that they understand and are responding to th public's concerns about immigration.  In the process, aspects of the Bill which cause some concern have gone largely unremarked.

There are two main areas of concern.  The first is about the growing phenomenon of 'a border in every street'.  The proposals mean that landlords, bank managers and DVLA officials - and perhaps NHS staff, if charging for primary healthcare were to come into the Bill - will have a duty to check applicants' immigration status.

The second is about the sharp reduction in rights to appeal against Immigration Enforcement decisions.  Together with recent moves to narrow the scope of legal aid and judicial review, these would make it far harder to challenge decisions which (as the rates of successful appeal demonstrate) are often less than well-founded.

No one, of course, wants to condone illegality. The Bill contains new measures to prevent 'sham marriages'.  Church of England legal officals have been consulted about them, and many in the church feel that the proposals are fair, while not placing on parish clergy any requirement to check anyone's immigration status.

 

August 2013
The Home Office has issued a consultation document on options for charging some migrants for access to primary health care (e.g. seeing a GP).  The Mission and Public Affairs Council has made a response to this consultation, which accepts some of the suggestions but raises big question marks about the main direction and tone of the proposals

............................Global migration is a reality at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Migration policy has become a key concern for all communities. Churches are aware of the gift of migrants within their own lives, as well as the tensions that can emerge.  When engaging with migration issues the Church seeks to clarify issues of justice and understand the forces behind the movement of people (economic, persecution, climate change, war, civil unrest).

 

Migration is a global phenomenon, often unpredictable. In 2004 the General Synod of the Church of England called on HMG to 'to raise public awareness of the global phenomenon of migration including the needs of asylum seekers, economic migrants and displaced people and the disproportionate burden borne by developing countries'.

In 2007 Churches Together in Britain and Ireland suggested the following core principles for  churches working on migration issues:

Core Principles

  • Christians believe that all people are created equal in dignity, made in the image of God
  • As Christians, we fully accept our obligations as citizens of the countries in which we live…[but] do not attribute absolute value to the rights and privileges of nationality and citizenship
  • Christians affirm that people moving from one part of the world to another contribute their gifts and valuable qualities…to the country where they come to live
  • Christian belief in a personal God states good relationships as the foundation  of community cohesion.

Migration Principles: Statement for Churches Working with Migrants and Engaging with Migration Issues Churches Together in Britain and Ireland 2007

Churches and asylum seekers
In recent years local churches have found themselves facing new and at times
distressing challenges with increasing numbers of asylum seekers facing greater
financial and personal insecurity. Churches have often responded generously welcoming asylum seekers as part of congregations, and collaboratively, often in new coalitions across towns, boroughs or cities providing support, advice, education or just space for newly arrived communities to begin to organise themselves.

Congregations have offered hospitality and found their perceptions and world view radically altered - whether through giving space to congregations from different linguistic or denominational groups, or welcoming Christians, or members of other
faith communities, to worship and prayer. Experience of individual cases has often led to clergy and congregations becoming involved in appeals and the legalities surrounding removals. This engagement has often been drawn on when Bishops have intervened during the passage of legislation in the House of Lords.

Asylum Principles is an ecumenical statement of theological principles for the churches' work on asylum issues.

What can churches do?

Asylum: campaigns and links

Synod resoloution and statements

Our Christian task is remembering and recognising how Christ suffers in the stranger, remembering and recognising how Christ is to be seen, in wonder and joy, in the stranger, whose life is now bound up with mine. We as believers have the unenviable job of trying to hear and interpret the wounds of everyone involved and to ask for the justice of the Bible, a situation in which each acts for the good of the other. This is what the church is supposed to be and show a place of justice

Archbishop Rowan Williams

A stain on our proud tradition

By the Right Reverend John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds and the Bishops' Parliamentary Spokesperson for immigration & asylum. 31st January 2013.

Alarmingly low levels of support are forcing around 10,000 children and their families seeking safety in the UK into severe poverty and, in some cases, outright destitution. In the worst cases this is putting babies' and mothers' lives at risk.

The issue of asylum is a particularly sensitive one. It actually involves children and families escaping from war, violence and terror. However, many seem to believe that asylum seekers are merely seeking a better life rather than searching for a safe life.

Over the past few months, I have been part of the first parliamentary inquiry examining how asylum support affects children and young people whose families have fled to our shores seeking sanctuary.

This country has a long and proud tradition of providing help, compassion and safety to those in need. But with this tradition comes the responsibility to make sure that those fleeing danger are provided with the basics to live a reasonable life.

What we heard from over 200 individuals and organisations is nothing less than alarming. It is clear that, even though Britain signed the United Nations refugee convention over 50 years ago, under which it agrees to give those in need international protection, successive governments have failed in their duty to make sure people are not pushed into poverty and destitution.

One case we heard was of a mother who, despite having applied for asylum support was left with nothing for five months while her application was being considered. With nothing to live on and nowhere to stay, she and her two children, aged three and six, had no other option but to sleep on the floor of a mosque and depend on handouts for food.

Across the UK, families that are seeking asylum are on such drastically low levels of support - some on just £5 a day per person - that they can barely put food on the table or buy a winter coat.

Many who are on the lowest form of support from the Home Office get no cash. They receive their allowance on a card, which can only be used in designated shops. As a result, they cannot even buy milk at the corner shop and are unable to take the bus to the doctors or take their children to school.

One mother told us how she did not have enough money to buy a buggy and could not use the bus because she was not given cash support so she had to walk home from the hospital with her newborn baby in her arms in the snow.

Most families fleeing persecution and tyranny arrive in the UK with nothing and only have asylum support on which to survive. Despite commonly held beliefs that they choose to come to the UK in order to take advantage of our benefits system or to find jobs, in reality they cannot do either. They are not allowed to work in the UK or claim such mainstream benefits as child benefit, income support, disability living allowance or housing benefit.
Shockingly, instead of being treated with respect and humanity, they are forced to live in cramped, crowded, dirty and unsafe accommodation in areas where they are often subjected to racial abuse.

Families are frequently moved with no regard to their children's education, support networks, health needs or home life. One mother told of how she and her six-year-old son were moved six times in just two years, leading to huge disruption to his school life and ability to form friendships.

They were never given more than a few days' notice that they would be moved, nor were they given the information needed to help them settle in to their new location. They were left isolated and afraid.

Fears that providing decent levels of asylum support will lead to our being 'flooded with asylum-seekers' are completely unfounded. There is no link between the two, not least because those seeking safety have little knowledge of the support system before they arrive and are grateful for any support they get. The truth is that many families fleeing danger from places like Afghanistan and Iran claim asylum in neighbouring countries. In fact, most of the world's refugees are in developing countries such as Pakistan, where they may also face danger.

The majority of those who do manage to reach Europe seek protection in other countries. In 2011, the UK received 25,500 asylum applicants. France, Germany, Sweden and Belgium all received more applications, with France receiving twice as many.

The UK has always been a global leader in protecting human rights. In 1989, we ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which set out clearly that children, no matter where they come from or who their parents are, need special protection and need to be treated equally. Yet our inquiry found that children and their families are being forced to live in appalling conditions and pushed into deprivation that is unacceptable by anybody's standards.
This government can break the cycle of inhumanity and make a difference by making sure the support given to asylum seekers is adequate to live with dignity. It needs to abolish the cashless system that is particularly punitive and is forcing children to grow up in extreme hardship.
Ending the cashless system would actually save money for the public purse. And increasing cash-based support would take only a tiny amount in the grand scheme of overall public spending, ending the misery this so-called system of support is inflicting on families.
It is vital that we stay true to the best part of our humanity and do not turn our backs on the many children and families fleeing tyranny and violence who desperately need protection within our borders. Let us instead help them to rebuild their lives and help children to thrive and be part of our society.

Bishop John Packer was a member of the cross-party parliamentary inquiry, chaired by Sarah Teather MP, into the impact of asylum support on children and young people. Its report was published this week. See The Children's Society campaign to find how you can help end forced destitution

 

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