Invitation to sign Westminster Justice and Peace Statement on Calais refugees
We sign this letter because of our sympathy and concern for refugees and asylum seekers in general and those now at Calais in particular. We have been shocked at some of the hostile comments made by politicians about them.
They have been portrayed as a “swarm” by our Prime Minister and as “marauding” by our Foreign Secretary. We agree with the Jewish Council for Racial Equality which recently said that the British response to this problem was “appalling”. We should do better than promise 100 more border guards to patrol the French end of the Channel tunnel.
The Christian perspective ought to be clear. Refugees are fellow human beings made in the image and likeness of God and are our brothers and sisters in Christ whatever their religion. The great majority are fleeing war, persecution, starvation and other forms of cruelty. A minority are economic migrants.
In fact those fleeing to safety here represent a very small proportion of those who have escaped to other parts of Europe. Germany has taken 97,275 refugees and France 68,500, while the UK has taken 10,050. Lebanon, with a population of only 4.5 million, has over a million Syrian refugees. Africans make up less than half the total coming to Europe. All these figures are available in an article published on 10 August 2015 in The Guardian.
This is a major European problem to be dealt with compassionately by all European countries working collectively for the good of all. There should be efficient and rapid vetting procedures. We British must take our fair share of responsibility and offer to re-settle and house our proper quota of these desperate people.
Some but not all of the conflict in the Middle East and Africa has clearly resulted from British military action taken without credible United Nations authority, and by British arms sales.
As Bishop Lynch, Auxiliary Bishop for Southwark and Chair of the Office for Migration Policy, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has said:
“We must face up to the shared responsibility of making the world a better and safer environment to live in. We must examine as a matter of urgency the arms trade that fuels and arms conflict and civil war, climate change, unjust economic policies, poverty and corruption as some of the underlying causes of this fundamental global trend. The safety of vulnerable women and children who may fall prey to smugglers and human traffickers is paramount and must be addressed.”
We urge our government to alter its negative approach to this problem. The refugees at Calais are not enemies and invaders. Most of them are people in great trouble, often risking their lives to flee from intolerable situations. Many also have professional skills which we should welcome here.
Let us not forget the words of Jesus about those who would deserve Heaven: “When I was hungry, you gave me food, when thirsty you gave me drink when I was a stranger you took me into your home.” (Matthew 25.36) Whatever the immediate practical problems – and they are by no means insuperable – these are the ideals which ought to inspire us to work with generosity and love for the refugees who need our help.
Parishioners of Marychurch, Hatfield
Parishioners of St Bonaventure, Welwyn Garden City
J&P Group, SS Albans & Stephen, St Albans
J&P Group, Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell
St Joseph, Bunhill Row
St Mellitus, Tollington Park
St Thomas More, Manor House
James Trewby and Columban JPIC
Fr John Elliott & Stella Oladinn (chair of parish council), St Edmund of Abingdon, Millwall
Fr John Cunningham, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and St Joseph
Fr Robert Ehileme & Martin Birdseye, Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Heston
Deacon Adrian Cullen, Sacred Heart of Jesus and St Joseph, Ware
Fr Christopher Vipers, Episcopal Vicar, Diocese of Westminster
Independent Catholic News
London Catholic Worker
A.M. Stapleton, Mary Burns, Claire O’Neill, Andrew O’Neill, Mike Harris, Gerard McMahon, Patrick McMahon, Conor McMahon, Dreda Hickey, Ann Owen, Duncan McPherson, Ann McPherson, John Fogarty, Barry Kilkenny, Michael Sievorniak, Olive Malsher, Pat Malsher, Sr Eileen McGrath,