Interfaith leaders have joined forces to speak out against the government's Illegal Migration bill.
The legislation is currently making its way through the House of Lords, but has come under scrutiny from a number of Christian leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and figures within the House of Bishops.
If it passes, the bill could see all those who arrive into the UK via small boat – or other illegal means – unable to apply for asylum. Instead, they would be deported back to their country of origin, or sent to a third country, likely Rwanda.
Most Rev Justin Welby has repeatedly condemned the government’s approach to migration in recent years, and has publically stated that he believes the government would be shirking their responsibilities to asylum seekers, should the Rwanda scheme, or the Illegal Migration bill, go ahead.
Faith leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups have released a film with Together With Refugees to mark the first day of Refugee Week, in which they criticise the bill.
Speaking in the video, Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, who arrived in the UK at 14 years old as a refugee from Iran, said: “This bill would allow the UK to turn its back on people in desperate need - denying safety to those who are vulnerable.
“Instead it would lock up people who have fled terrible circumstances in fear for their lives. I arrived in this country aged 14 and was given protection and welcome. But the proposals in this bill would mean detaining children who need help behind bars.
“ I am proud to join with other faith leaders to stand with refugees against this bill. It does not represent who we are as faith leaders or as a nation.”
The 14 contributors to the film state: “As people of faith, we strive to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality, to love, protect, listen, learn, and show compassion. This is who we are.
“Across the UK, now and throughout history, individuals and communities of faith have welcomed refugees into their homes and lives.
“When people travel across borders because they are fleeing war, persecution or oppression, we are ready to play our part. But the Illegal Migration Bill will deny people desperately seeking safety in the UK the right to community, peace, compassion and security.
“It will ban people from getting the protection they need, punish them for seeking sanctuary, and separate families. Instead of hospitality, it treats people with hostility, discrimination and distrust.
“We believe in a different approach. We believe in a fair and just asylum system that welcomes those who need protection and respects their dignity.
“We call on the government to listen to communities who say this bill does not reflect what we want our country to be. As people of faith, we will stand together with refugees, because it’s who we are.”
In addition to the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Christian contributors include: Bishop Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church; Elizabeth Palmer CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society; Emily Shepherd, Co-CEO of Welcome Churches, Fr Michael Coughlan; Parish Priest; Fiona Bennett Moderator, United Reformed Church; Rev Inderjit Bhogal President of City of Sanctuary; Rev Sally Foster-Fulton Moderator of the Church of Scotland; Rev Tim Presswood President of Baptists Together 2023-2024; Rt Rev John Perumbalath, Bishop of Liverpool.