Bishop of Manchester: ‘Britain Must Take in the Refugees it Helped Create’

Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Britain must take in the migrants currently crossing the Mediterranean, a senior Bishop has said, arguing that we have a “moral duty” to accept refugees from wars partly of our own making.

Writing in today’s Observer, the Rt Rev David Walker, bishop of Manchester criticised Britain’s foreign policy of intervention to remove dictators in the middle east. He opined: “Twenty-first-century Britain still aspires to be an international player. We may no longer be kingmaker across large swaths of the globe, but we like to see our influence, and our military assets, being used to destabilise and engineer the removal of some of the more unpleasant dictators who strut the world stage.

“To go on doing this, in the belief that next time round what will ensue will be a peaceful, human-rights observing, multi-party democracy is getting us close to the classic definition of madness.

“The moral cost of our continual overseas interventions has to include accepting a fair share of the victims of the wars to which we have contributed as legitimate refugees in our own land.”

Bishop Walker also attacked the rhetoric of us verses them which last week led Katie Hopkins to use the word “cockroaches” in relation to African migrants, saying that “last week, migration got a human face”.

Last year 170,000 migrants set sail across the Mediterranean and landed in Italy in order to claim asylum. In the first four months of this year, a further 21,191 had been registered in Italy; the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime last year estimated that a further 600,000 in Northern Africa may be planning to make the crossing.

In her Sun column, Hopkins pointed out that the migrants making the desperate crossing across the Med were the self-same migrants currently terrorising the port of Calais as they sought to stow aboard vehicles making the crossing across the English Channel. She called for a “balls of steel” Australian approach to the migrants boats which would see them confiscated and destroyed in a bid to prevent people from making the crossing.

But Bishop Walker countered that the migrants themselves are the real victims, driven to desperation by war and persecution. “The asylum seekers washing up, sometimes all too literally, on Europe’s shores, are not driven to put their lives, and their families’ lives, on the line because they’ve heard that the UK has a generous benefits system,” he said. “They take appalling risks.

“They trust themselves and whatever little money they can scrape together to people smugglers and to overcrowded boats, because life at home has become desperate. They are pushed, not pulled, towards the EU, forced out of their homelands by war, terrorism and the persecution of minorities.”

With just over a week to go til the General Election, he said that he would be voting for politicians who show compassion to migrants and food bank users.

“I want my country to be governed by those who are prepared to look at the faces of the desperate, be it the desperation of the asylum seeker or of the food bank client, and to look at them with compassion,” he said.

” Only such politicians will I trust with the well-being of my family, my community and my nation.”

The Church of England has come under fire in recent months for a left wing bias within its ranks. A row broke out in February between the Church and the Conservative Party when the Bishops released a 54 page letter exhorting politicians to embrace left wing policy solutions. The Prime Minister David Cameron responded “A welfare system that pays people to stay idle when they could work – that is not the sign of a strong economy or a strong or good society.”

In March, trainee Vicar Harry Pinker penned an article for the Spectator in which he admitted being scared to reveal that he is a Tory. He wrote: “At my college, there are approximately 60 ordinands in full-time residential training. Of those 60, there are no more than three or four who would describe themselves as Conservative and the overwhelming majority would call themselves (proudly) socialist. There is also a sizable minority of Marxists.”