11 July 2023, The Tablet

Faith leaders unite in concern over Illegal Migration Bill

Faith leaders unite in concern over Illegal Migration Bill

Protest against the controversial Illegal Migration Bill outside the Palace of Westminster as the bill is debated in Parliament earlier this year.
Ron Fassbender / Alamy


Caritas Salford and Shrewsbury and the Columban Missionaries were among the Catholic groups who sent a joint letter to the prime minister on Monday calling on the Government to abandon plans for detaining child refugees in advance of the Illegal Immigration Bill being discussed in the House of Commons today.

Before the debate, and after the draft legislation suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords, government ministers proposed an amendment to allow immigration bail to be granted after eight days to unaccompanied children in detention. The government also agreed to keep the current limit on detaining pregnant women at 72 hours and not to backdate deportations.

The Jesuit Refugee Service UK said, “It is vital that all children are protected from the lifelong trauma that detention inflicts.”  Last weekend JRS UK, Cafod, the Catholic Social Action Network and Pax Christi Scotland were among those asking supporters to oppose “this cruel and unworkable Bill”.

On 5 July the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby successfully led an amendment against Prime Minster Rishi Sunak's migration bill in the Lords. Justin Welby spearheaded an amendment to the bill to force the government to formulate a 10-year plan for working with international partners to tackle the refugee crisis, driving migration to the UK.  Lords peers also voted for an amendment, proposed by the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, that would reinstate the right of appeal of an age assessment and allow that to be a barrier for removal. He said, “The government has an obligation to protect children and indeed all children, unaccompanied or accompanied, British or refugee.”

Together with Refugees, an umbrella organisation with more than 500 members including many Christian groups, had warned that the Bill could lead to two classrooms of children being detained each day, causing irreparable harm. It called on Parliament to retain existing time limits which prevent the routine detention of refugee babies, toddlers and children. It urged the government to focus on creating “a compassionate, fair, and effective system”.

Archbishop Welby said, “As faith leaders we hold different beliefs on many things, but we are united in our concern for people seeking sanctuary. Britain must have an asylum system based on justice and compassion. We are standing together to call on the Government to honour our obligations to the world’s most vulnerable people – and play our part in tackling a global crisis that is only set to worsen in the coming years, as millions more people around the world are forced to flee their homes. The amendment I have tabled to the Illegal Migration Bill is intended to focus our efforts on that goal.”


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