Today, over 1000 faith leaders have written to the Prime Minister calling on him to urgently rethink the Nationality & Borders Bill. Senior leaders from the URC, Methodist Church, Baptist Union and Church of Scotland are among the signatories, as are hundreds of local leaders from our denominations. As the Bill returns to the House of Lords for debate today, the letter represents voices from the six major faith groups in the UK, and is the biggest action on the bill from faith leaders so far.
There is no way to diminish the threat that the Nationality & Borders bill poses to the UK’s ability to be responsive (or in any way welcoming) to those seeking sanctuary from international conflict. The plans in the bill to criminalise and restrict the rights of those who seek sanctuary in the UK via irregular routes, whilst at the same time doing practically nothing to establish new safe and accessible routes to claim asylum, will punish those who desperately need support. The government are shutting the door at every turn to the opportunity to welcome those fleeing persecution and conflict. In their letter, faith leaders say these policies have been made ‘without a basis in evidence or morality’, and must be urgently stopped.
As the crisis in Ukraine unfolds, we are becoming increasingly aware once again of how a family’s life can change in an instant. Overnight, somewhere that was once safe can become incredibly dangerous. Your vision of the future can shrink drastically and the options to keep that future alive become incredibly slim. In the face of this, the UK should be recognising the need to play our part in establishing laws that enable us to respond adeptly to global events. And yet instead, we are locking our doors and turning our backs, leaving people out in the cold.
As people of faith, there is no way we can justify such a hostile approach towards some of the most vulnerable people in our world. Are we not called to do everything we can, even to the point of taking our own cloak off our back to provide them warmth? At the very least this is a recognition of the inherent dignity and value in every god-created human being. And at its worst, denying the dignity of those we encounter is denying the very face of Christ.
The sad reality is that, because of the Government’s majority in the House of Commons, the Bill will pass to royal assent still bearing most of its features. Communities across the country will be left to pick up the pieces. There is no doubt that faith groups will be among those coming together to provide refuge, essential support and welcome to those marginalised by these new policies, even if they are kept out of our communities and in hostile detention centres.
But in these last moments, we must still do everything we can to make it clear that this Bill is not in our name. This week, peers in the House of Lords will table and vote on amendments to the bill that offer chinks of light in an otherwise dark landscape. Lord Dub’s amendment to open up broader routes for family reunion pathways for unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Europe is an essential step. Every MP will have the chance to check their conscience and choose to vote to approve these changes, and it is vital that we urge them to do so in every way we can.
The faith leaders letter to the Prime Minister ends by saying that “while there is still conflict and injustice in the world, there will always be desperate people needing to seek sanctuary from war, persecution and suffering. We cannot close our door on them, but this Bill does just that.” Their letter is an attempt to stand in the doorway for every moment we have left, and to call loudly for a society that welcomes the stranger.
What can you do?
Write to your MP, to ask them to vote for amendments which will alter the bill to provide safe and accessible routes for those seeking sanctuary. Click here to find our template letter and guidance.
We want to make the most of the letter, to ensure that the voices of faith groups are loud and clear in calling for change. Click here to find ways you can help us amplify the impact of the letter.