The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, who speaks for the Church of England on refugees, has issued the following response to the Home Secretary’s statement on the Illegal Migration Bill.
He said: “No one wants to see people risking their lives to reach safety, but we must ask is this Bill the right response – one that is built on compassion, justice and moral leadership?
“It’s likely to push thousands of people, including children, into a prolonged legal limbo and imprisonment, and does nothing to support timely and effective consideration of asylum requests.
“It would label all those crossing the Channel illegal entrants and therefore people to whom we do not owe a responsibility and would criminalise the act of claiming asylum – without acknowledging that many are highly vulnerable people escaping persecution and war, who have been left with no safe routes.
“Providing safe and legal routes is part of the solution and not one only to be explored after Channel crossings have ended.
“The Home Secretary acknowledges the growing global refugee crisis, which we can’t solve on our own, but it is disappointing that the Government has decided to not take on a greater role in leading the world to equitably support those forced to flee their home.
“The consequences of this will be felt by vulnerable migrants, and by poorer countries in the global south already supporting the vast majority of the world’s refugees.
“We must not abdicate our legal and moral responsibility to some of the world’s most vulnerable by simply treating asylum seekers as a group not to be welcomed or integrated, but detained and returned. We must do and be better.”