In the UK, there is a hostile environment towards refugees and asylum seekers. This has been characterised by destitution, discrimination and distrust. It can take months and in many cases years for the Home Office to make a decision on an asylum application. During this time, asylum seekers are offered minimal support of only £37.75 a week.
Those who are unable to prove their right to be in the UK are refused the right to access vital public services, banking and the private housing market. They are also denied the right to work. Deprived of access to work, people can quickly become homeless, hungry and more vulnerable to depression. They are also less likely to be able to afford to pay the fees needed to apply for legal status.
One of the underlying threats of the UK’s hostile environment is indefinite detention. If the Home Office believes someone may abscond or should be deported, they are held in prison-like conditions. Although it is recommended that individuals are not held for longer than 28 days, in reality there is no time limit so people can be locked up indefinitely.
This environment breeds a culture of discrimination and distrust, particularly by landlords, doctors and employers who have to make decisions about who can access jobs, homes or healthcare. They face serious penalties if they get it wrong. As a consequence people who do not look or sound ‘British’ are facing increased levels of discrimination in finding homes and employment regardless of their immigration status.
Our hope this year is for a more welcoming atmosphere in the UK for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. As Christians, we believe that when Christ came he promised us life and life in abundance (John 10:10). Without enough money for food to eat or a secure and adequate place to call home or access to vital healthcare you cannot live the abundant life that God intends for all of us.
The Bible is full of stories of people who were forced or chose to move across borders and there is a repeated command throughout both the Old and the New Testaments to welcome the stranger (Deuteronomy 10: 19, Leviticus 19:34, Hebrews 13:2). Jesus himself migrates three times. He makes the ultimate border crossing in the incarnation; he is an undocumented infant refugee to Egypt; and in his later life he becomes a travelling preacher and healer. Therefore, we recognise that in welcoming the stranger, we welcome Christ himself.
Our work this year will therefore continue to focus on challenging these hostile policies and through our connections with churches and other organisations we will promote and foster a culture of welcome for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The Joint Public Issues Team uses six hopes to guide our work. This is the fourth of our six hopes which we are sharing with you to give you a greater insight into JPIT’s work.
Find out more about our work around asylum and migration here: