The Catholic Bishops from Scotland and England & Wales have issued a joint statement criticizing the Immigration Bill before Parliament and urging the elimination of the offense of “illegal working” for undocumented migrants.
In their statement, the bishops call for a series of amendments to the bill, such as a significant permanent reduction in the use of detention, a time limit on detention, and a reduction in the minimum income threshold for family visas.
The bishops’ rationale in wishing to do away with the crime of illegal working is that “fear of prosecution currently deters people from escaping abusive employment practices or presenting themselves to the police.”
“Those perpetrating the horrors of modern slavery will seek every chance to take advantage of new immigration policies,” the bishops declare.
“One particularly important step towards protecting people from exploitation would therefore be to repeal the offence of illegal working, so that no victim is at risk of being punished,” they propose.
The bishops also note that the UK “remains the only European country without a time limit on detention,” a situation that has “devastating consequences for the wellbeing of vulnerable individuals who find themselves detained including some victims of torture, survivors of trafficking and people fleeing religious persecution in their home countries.”
“It also has a significant impact on families who are separated with no indication of when they might be reunited,” they propose.
While the bishops have criticized the Immigration Bill as overly harsh, migration sceptics such as Nigel Farage have suggested on the contrary the proposed legislation introduces a number of changes that could produce an increase in migrant numbers.
“They’ve set the barriers for educational ability and income earning potential so low that actually numbers coming into the UK could increase, not decrease as a result of this and then we have to question their competence,” warned the Brexit Party leader.
The bishops’ statement also calls for changes to the clergy visa system, saying that the new Tier 2 visas more than double the costs incurred by parishes for bringing in religious workers to help attend to the needs of the faithful.
Scotland’s lead Bishop for migrants and refugees, Bishop William Nolan, said that the bishops “strongly urge the Government to accept amendments addressing these important issues and hope that MPs from all parties will take this opportunity to help create a more just and humane immigration system.”