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Cardinal Nichols welcomes Government U-turn on child refugees

05 May 2016 | by Catholic News Service

The British Government has been under pressure to accept into the country unaccompanied refugee children from Syria

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has welcomed a U-turn by the British government over the resettlement of child refugees.

He said he was "very happy" with yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron that the UK will accept an unspecified number of unaccompanied children who arrived in the European Union from Syria.

Under pressure from Parliament, Cameron said the UK would not only take in 3,000 children from refugee camps in the Middle East, but that children registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20 March, the date when an EU deal with Turkey to return migrants took effect, would also be eligible for resettlement in Britain.The government will not take in migrant children who arrive after that date because it does not want to encourage human trafficking, the prime minister said.

In a statement, Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, expressed satisfaction that the government had struck the right balance. "I am very happy that the government is extending an offer of sanctuary to a greater number of children fleeing conflict, while continuing to combat the evils of human trafficking," said the cardinal.

"The UK's response to the refugee crisis is improving the lives of thousands," he added. "I encourage the Catholic community to keep on playing its part through working with local authorities, being generous with time and resources, and extending the hand of welcome to refugees arriving here."

Days earlier, Cardinal Nichols had used a homily at an annual diocesan Mass for migrants to tell Catholics that they should protest against immigration policies that could put the lives of children at risk.

"While it is right to keep silent when children are asleep, it is never right to stay silent when they are perishing at sea or at risk in hostile camps," Cardinal Nichols said at the 2 May Mass.

At the Vatican, top officials of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, known by the acronym CCEE, met with Pope Francis on 2 May and heads of various dicasteries during their visit to Rome. The presidency members -- a president and two vice presidents -- were ending their five-year term this year.

Speaking to reporters on 3 May at the Vatican, Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, CCEE president, said individual countries are facing the challenge of the immigration and refugee crisis. While the European continent as a whole must also come together to respond to the dilemma, each nation is in its own unique situation, which requires localised responses, he said.

"Therefore it's necessary to patiently and perceptively examine the situation of each region in order to find a concrete Christian-Catholic response to the situations," Cardinal Erdo said.

A blanket or mandatory solution is impossible, he said, not only because national laws are different, but because each nation faces a different challenge depending on whether it is a country of origin, transit or destination for refugees and forced migrants.

So, for example, he said, a mandatory policy of integrating newcomers does not work if migrants do not want to stay in the so-called country of transit and to do so "would be a restriction on their freedom" to move.

 

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