Barge for UK Asylum Seekers: Church Alarm

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It is the latest horror of a migration policy repeatedly condemned by the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches. The “Bibby Stockholm”, a huge metal barge, intended to accommodate up to 500 asylum seekers, but equipped for only about 200, has recently moored in the port of Portland, on the south coast of the United Kingdom. At the same time, the British government gave the definitive go-ahead to the controversial immigration legislation which provides for the deportation to Rwanda of those arriving illegally on small boats.

The Catholic Church, the Church of England and the most important Christian charities protested against the barge and against the approval of the new legislation. “Write to your parliamentarians to ask that safe routes be guaranteed for asylum seekers”, asked Bishop Terence Drainey, president of Caritas Social Action Network, the organization that brings together the most important NGOs in England and Wales: “We are deeply concerned that the Illegal Migration Bill will become law because there is a lack of adequate protections against human trafficking and limits on the detention of minors. It is a cruel and inhumane law that is an affront to human dignity and a violation of our responsibilities to the common good and our obligations under international law.”

“I think that, with this prison ship, Great Britain is returning to the darkest periods of its history”, comments Professor Francis Davies, professor at the University of Oxford and at Saint Mary’s University, the London Catholic university owned by the Church. “There are three times in our history when we have used barges as prisons: during the Napoleonic wars, in the Northern Irish conflict and when our prisons have been full and unable to accommodate any more inmates.

In all these cases, our country was in despair and the conditions offered to prisoners were not respectful of their dignity. Furthermore, it is not fair that asylum seekers, awaiting trial, are treated as terrorists or criminals.

It is also clear that the conditions are not adequate. The rooms are small, the toilets scarce and the prisoners will not be able to play sports and have real moments of recreation. We should show them more respect.”

The same lack of respect demonstrated by the United Kingdom with the approval of the Illegal Migration Bill, the legislation announced by the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 14 April 2022, which provides that Rwanda accepts thousands of asylum seekers in exchange for 120 million pounds (about 140 million euros) and drastically limits the rights of so-called “illegal migrants” to submit, retrospectively, asylum applications on the island.

To date, the law has never been applied, i.e. no illegal migrant who arrived in the United Kingdom has ever been deported to Rwanda, because, every time the government attempted the transfer, an appeal to the judges by asylum seekers, often represented by NGOs, interrupted the process. The tug of war between judges and the government is destined to continue. Just last week, in fact, the executive was authorized to appeal to the Supreme Court against the latest ruling of the Court of Appeal of the end of June according to which the Illegal Migration Bill violated the legislation on asylum seekers.

In a statement signed by 290 people, the law was also condemned by “Cafod”, the charity for aid to the Third World of the English Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Jesuit Refugee Service of London, the Methodist Church and the Quakers. “The government hurriedly approved this unjust law, which was fought over by many”, reads the statement, “but our fight does not stop there. We will continue to force those in power to comply with the UK’s international obligations.” The law has been condemned several times, most recently during the debate in the House of Lords, including by the Anglican Primate Justin Welby, theological leader of the “Church of England”.

This article is originally published on teleradio-news.it

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