Catholics are being urged to oppose the government’s Illegal Migration Bill on moral grounds.
The legislation would give the government the power to deport people seeking safety to countries such as Rwanda - a policy the Court of Appeal this week ruled is unlawful because people deported could face persecution.
CAFOD, an international development agency and official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, is making a landmark intervention on domestic policy due to concerns over the government’s language and proposed treatment of people seeking safety and fleeing persecution.
Citing Pope Francis, who has been a ferocious advocate of migrants and refugees, CAFOD is urging its supporters to write to their MPs to oppose the Bill by highlighting his call for the need to show “maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant” and to “build bridges and not walls” as well as “expanded channels for a safe and regular migration.”
In a message to supporters, CAFOD said “instead of showing respect and dignity, the UK government is trying to make the situation for people seeking safety even worse”.
The charity adds that the Illegal Migration Bill, which is currently going through parliament, will “effectively shut the door” on the vast majority of people needing to claim asylum.
Aisha Dodwell, CAFOD’s head of campaigns, said: “If passed, this inhumane legislation will be a stain on the country’s reputation. People fleeing conflict and persecution are dying in their thousands as they try to find safety for themselves and their families. Yet, instead of recognising the dire situation these people are in, the UK government is seemingly doing everything it can to make their lives even harder.
“Pope Francis has urged world leaders to build bridges not walls and to welcome, protect and integrate people without distinction.
“But the Illegal Migration Bill represents everything Pope Francis asks us not to be, which is why we are urging Catholics to speak out against the Bill and show we are a country that welcomes people who need our help.”
Campaigners and Christian groups welcomed the Court of Appeal’s ruling which was handed down on Thursday.
The Church of Scotland’s vice-convener of the Faith Action Programme Leadership Team, Emma Jackson said the government should instead work on establishing safe and legal routes for people seeking sanctuary in the UK, and increase its international aid spending.
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the government will appeal the Court of Appeal judgment.