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Bishop's 'rage' over Channel drownings which 'we all bear responsibility for'

by Donna Birrell

The Bishop of Dover says she feels an "inner rage" over the tragedy in the English Channel in which 27 refugees drowned. 

Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin says we must all bear some responsibility for the situation because the general attitude towards refugees and the language used to describe them has helped create a rhetoric which whips us politicians for political gain.  

Speaking to Premier she says the international community must work together to resolve the crisis.

"It feels very personal, but not just because I'm the Bishop of Dover. It's personal because they're human beings. How many deaths will it take until the world wakes up to the realisation that those who are dying are human beings? They're our sisters and brothers, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters. I feel an inner rage that we continue to allow this tragedy to unfold.

"It is shocking. We must all take responsibility. We keep contributing to the rhetoric around migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants, whatever means we want to use, we bump up the rhetoric which then goes towards the politicians and then they accentuate it, because they think that that is what the people want. They've got to stop that.

"It's too late for blaming people. Traffickers are wretched people and they are abusing those who are most vulnerable and that is despicable. But you know what, this is not about blaming that group or that country, etc. This is something epic. This deserves the international community to sit down together and not leave the table until they find a solution. 

"Huge waves of people are moving because they want to survive. They want to live, they want to be able to feed their families. That's why they are moving. They're moving because bombs are raining down on them as well. You know, weapons of destruction, weapons that we contribute to, that we make and sell to unscrupulous governments, knowing full well that some of these leaders are going to use them on their own people. So we need an international solution to the problem. 

"We've got to stop saying 'Oh, they're not refugees, they're economic migrants.' The British were economic migrants when they moved around the world conquering and trying to make a life for themselves.

"Let's not forget the link - of Britain in its heyday conquering the world going over and saying that they own this country and that country. That is part of the link. We mustn't forget that people are wanting to come here, because the British went there, that is part of the link that we must not forget.

"I think one of the things that the Church can do, apart from praying, because prayer is important. Prayer has got to tell us as Christians to move outwards. Part of that move outwards is for us, in the communities where we live, to challenge some of these very negative attitudes about people who are moving in such huge numbers. 

"Look at climate change. It was not taken seriously. But now that climate change is impacting in the West, people are sitting up and thinking, we've got to solve this problem, we've got to deal with it, let's not wait until there is some catastrophic, natural disaster that happens in the West and we're looking for somewhere to go for sanctuary. 

"As Christians we need to ensure that there is compassion in our conversations. We need to treat these folks who are moving not as something that is inferior to us. But as one of us, how would we like to be treated? We've got to be able to open all the possibilities to enable people to come through safer routes than using the means that they're using, which is definitely unsafe."

The latest Home Office data shows that almost 26,000 people are believed to have arrived in Britain this year after crossing the Channel on a small boat.

That's an increase of 8,700 per cent since 2018 when around 299 made the crossing. 


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