More than 200 faith leaders have written to the government urging them to bring more “refugees” to Britain. They have suggested migrants with family already in the UK be given priority as a way to make a start.
The signatories, who represent followers of a number of religions, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jain, and Zoroastrians, assert in the open letter that “All our faiths compel us to affirm the dignity of all human beings and to offer help to anyone in need”.
And they add: “As people of faith, we call on your [sic] Government urgently to revise its policy towards refugees.”
Arguing that illegal immigrants, such as child migrants who have been trafficked across Europe, should be able to bring their families to the UK to join them, the signatories call on “your government” to take a “fair and proportionate share” of refugees from within and without Europe; although no indication is given as to what figure constitutes a fair and proportionate share.
Safe and legal routes to and within Europe and the UK are also called for, as is “access to fair and thorough procedures to determine eligibility for international protection wherever it is sought”.
The letter follows on from one signed by 357 lawyers and judges last October, which uses the same formatting and calls for identical action from the government, as does another signed by 126 economists in January. A third, signed by the leaders of humanitarian charities also released in January, uses similar wording to reiterate the same demands and was published in The Guardian.
The style and tone of the letters suggests they are part of a common campaign to see refugees brought to the UK. The letter signed by the lawyers gives more detail on the demands, including calling for “a relocation scheme to take refugees from destitute conditions elsewhere in Europe”.
Among the 224 people who signed the letter are Lord Williams of Oystermouth, Former Archbishop of Canterbury; Harun Rashid Khan, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain; Lord Singh of Wimbledon, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, UK; and 48 of the Church of England’s 113 bishops.
Speaking to The Guardian, Dr. Williams, who will today address faith leaders, reiterating the letter’s demands, suggested that the government was disinclined to act as “the sheer scale of the refugee crisis has the capacity to paralyse us”.
He argued therefore that allowing the relatives of refugees already in Britain to join their family members would create “a practical route for responding to the pressure of the human suffering we see”.
He added: “People admitted as family members are guaranteed a ready-made network, a human support system here – so that we are not talking about an influx of rootless or alienated individuals, vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation.
“One of the greatest tragedies of the current appalling situation is the shattering of family life as a result of displacement and insecurity.”
Fellow signatory Rabbi Herschel Gluck, said: “Being the son of refugees from Hitler, who lost over 100 of their close family members because of the lack of compassion and vision with regard to family reunification by the authorities at that time, I feel especially obliged to help ensure that we don’t repeat those mistakes.”
Qari Muhammad Asim, the chief imam of the Makkah mosque in Leeds, said: “Many refugees with close family members in the UK are risking their lives trying to escape deplorable conditions in camps and reunite with their families. Many lives could be saved if safe legal routes were secured by the government.”