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Cardinal Vincent Nichols has criticised politicians for using “alarmist” language in the debate about immigration, which he said needed “a good dose of reality”.
The cardinal-archbishop of Westminster spoke out against the use of arguments which stoke up “distress” about foreigners coming to Britain.
He was speaking to The Telegraph after visiting a Catholic Worker house in north London that offers short-term hospitality to refugees and asylum-seekers.
Referring to the visit he said: “I’ve heard the cry of the poor today.” Migrants were often housed in very poor conditions and because of restrictions on employment and education, their options for movement and creativity were blocked off, he said.
In the interview, released today, he said: “What I would appeal today is that the debate about immigration is done with a sense of realism and a sense of respect – and that it is not cushioned in expressions which are alarmist and evocative of anger or of dismay or distress at all these people coming to this country.”
His comments were published as a row erupted over a new £1.5 million advertising campaign by the UK Independence Party.
One of the billboard posters suggests to readers that £26 million EU migrants are after their jobs.
Last year Ukip leader Nigel Farage condemned a Home Office poster campaign telling illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest”. Mr Farage said the tone was “unpleasant” and “nasty” and would not succeed in reducing illegal immigration.
Cardinal Nichols did not mention any individual party but said: “It is important that into our political debate goes a good dose of reality.”
That reality, he said, included many public sector areas including hospitals “where we are now embracing – and dependent on – people who come to this country willing to give and wanting to support their families back home”.
It is likely that the amount of money sent home by immigrant workers in this country to support their families was greater than the UK’s overseas aid budget, he added.
Britons should celebrate the “richness” immigrants bring the country rather than treat their arrival as something worthy of “anger or dismay”, he said. “The vast majority of migrants to this country add to our well-being.”
The Church has held a special Mass for migrants in London every May bank holiday since 2006. Preaching at last year’s event (pictured), Cardinal Nichols praised the “richness and vitality” of London, where “every race and nationality has a presence”, but voiced concern for the “great strain” he said that EU economic and time-period thresholds were putting on families coming from outside the EU.
Photos: Catholic Church (England and Wales)