The bishops of England and Wales have expressed their deep concern at the “deepening humanitarian crisis” at Calais, where up to 5,000 migrants are living in makeshift camps and risking their lives to reach Britain.
Bishop Pat Lynch, the Catholic bishop with responsibility for migrant issues, called on the French authorities to provide more adequate reception facilities for migrants.
Speaking “in solidarity with the most vulnerable migrants” he paid tribute to “the local pastoral, humanitarian, and compassionate response from the French Church”.
But he noted that the situation had developed over a decade and added that resolving it would require input from “beyond Calais”.
Bishop Lynch said the international community had a shared responsibility to address issues at the root of the crisis, which he identified as: the arms trade that fuels armed conflict and civil war, climate change, unjust economic policies, poverty and corruption, as well as the trafficking industry.
Bishop Lynch made his comments shortly before the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, told the BBC that millions of “marauding” African migrants threatened Britain’s standard of living and social infrastructure.
“The gap in standards of living between Europe and Africa means there will always be millions of Africans with the economic motivation to try to get to Europe.”
“So long as there are large numbers of pretty desperate migrants marauding around the area, there always will be a threat to the tunnel security. We’ve got to resolve this problem ultimately by being able to return those who are not entitled to claim asylum back to their countries of origin.”
Hammond said EU laws meant migrants could be “pretty confident” that after setting foot on EU soil they would not be returned to their country of origin. “Now that is not a sustainable situation because Europe can’t protect itself, preserve its standard of living and social infrastructure if it has to absorb millions of migrants from Africa.”
Meanwhile the BBC has confirmed that next Sunday’s Songs of Praise will include footage shot at the migrants’ camp, where residents have built a makeshift Orthodox church. However a priest at the church, Hagos Kesete from Eritrea, where Christians face harsh persecution, has pulled out of the production for fears that his involvement could put his family at risk.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in a tweet welcomed the news that Songs of Praise was involving Christian migrants at Calais.
Above: a worshipper pauses inside the makeshift church in the Calais camp. Photo: PA