LONDON: Religious leaders of major faiths in the UK have backed calls by the most senior cleric in the Church of England to oppose new migration laws proposed by the government.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has been joined by senior Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish figures in signing a letter urging a different approach to tackling the UK’s migration crisis.
The signatories include the chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, Leeds-based Sunni Imam Qari Asim and Shiite cleric Imam Sayed Razawi, Scotland’s most senior Muslim scholar.
Other names of note are rabbis Charley Baginsky and Josh Levy, CEOs of the Progressive Judaism movement; the president of the Hindu Forum of Britain, Trupti Patel; Sikh peer Lord Singh of Wimbledon; the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell and the Bishop of Durham Paul Butler.
Tens of thousands of migrants are currently in temporary accommodation in the UK due to a shortage of housing and a backlog in Home Office processing of asylum applications.
The government’s proposals outlined in the Illegal Migration Bill include giving authorities more powers to detain, deport and ban people from re-entering the UK who have arrived illegally, as well as to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda to await the outcomes of their applications.
In their letter, published in The Times, the faith leaders wrote: “We represent people and communities whose belief, worship and action point us towards the kind of society we wish to build for the common good.
“The Illegal Migration Bill falls short of our obligation towards the most vulnerable; it fails to meet the basic test of an evidence-based and workable policy. We need an alternative approach that reflects our country’s history, values and responsibility.”
The letter continued: “With more than 100 million people displaced around the world, this crisis will not be solved without significant collective endeavour.
“The UK should take a lead in setting out a just, compassionate approach, ensuring that people seeking sanctuary are protected, claims decided quickly and justly, human traffickers are punished, and the root causes of mass migration are properly addressed.”
Asim told The Times: “I think people of all faiths are appalled to hear about the proposals by the government. It shows inhumanity and incompetence in dealing with the crisis. It goes against the values of the history of Britain.”
Welby, who sits in the House of Lords, has tabled a series of amendments to the proposed legislation, which is set to be debated in Parliament, including establishing “ten-year strategies for collaborating internationally” to halt human trafficking.
He told The Times: “As faith leaders we hold different beliefs on many things, but we are united in our concern for people seeking sanctuary. Britain must have an asylum system based on justice and compassion.”
Baginsky said: “Religion is political. It’s absolutely right that if you put bishops into the House of Lords, they are going to speak about that crossover between religion and politics. The issue of refugees and the way we welcome people into this country (falls) exactly where that crossover happens.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The only way to ensure that people are not subjected to dangerous journeys at the hands of criminal gangs, is to remove the incentive for taking those journeys in the first place — that is what our ‘Stop the Boats Bill’ sets out to do.”