03 October 2023, The Tablet

Do not shut door on asylum seekers, says bishop

Do not shut door on asylum seekers, says bishop

General Public and Union Members march past the Conservative Party Conference in protest against benefit cuts, the migrant crisis and the cancellation of HS2 to Manchester and Leeds.
Mark Lear / Alamy Live News

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been challenged by Church leaders and refugee charities after she attacked international refugee agreements during a speech on “uncontrolled and illegal migration” in the US last week. She argued that the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention must be reformed to tackle a worldwide migration crisis. It is currently the centrepiece of international refugee protection, recognising the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. Also in her sights was the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Our response to migrants and refugees must be rooted in the innate worth of each human person which demands recognition and respect of the fact that they are fleeing poverty, conflict or persecution,” Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead bishop for Migrants and Refugees in England and Wales, told The Tablet this week. “The UN Refugee Convention is designed to protect and save lives and is essential. Asylum seekers must not have the door shut on them.” He pointed out that the recent bishops’ conference document Love the Stranger urges the government to fulfil its obligations under international frameworks and these frameworks include the UN Refugee Convention. 

Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, said the UN Refugee Convention “is a vital and core mechanism to protect people fleeing persecution, and it is badly needed, now as much and more than ever”.

Braverman described “uncontrolled and illegal migration” as an “existential challenge for the political and cultural institutions of the West” in her speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC. She said, “Uncontrolled immigration, inadequate integration and a misguided dogma of multiculturalism have proven a toxic combination for Europe over the last few decades.” She cited Leicester as an example of a place where this had contributed to “undermining the stability” of society.

The Anglican Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, said, “I profoundly disagree with the Home Secretary’s speech about asylum and multiculturalism, her characterisation of Leicester, and of those seeking refuge in the UK.” He added, “I am immensely proud to be bishop of this diverse, creative and vibrant city.”

Durham’s Anglican Bishop, Paul Butler, defended the 1951 convention, saying that it has “served the world well” and “it still does”. He added, “The international community needs to look carefully at how it might apply in a world of significant climate change and this leading to an increase in those seeking refuge. The fundamentals of the Convention are sound and it is important that as a nation we play our full part in the international need for the proper protection of those in need of refuge.” Bishop Butler called for the development of more “safe and legal routes” for refugees.






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