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World News

Learn the lessons of Windrush and welcome Hong Kongers says vicar in Leeds

by Donna Birrell

A vicar in Leeds is urging churches to organise welcome events for people arriving in the UK from Hong Kong as part of a government resettlement scheme.

Rev Dave Young was speaking after more than 70 new arrivals from Hong Kong attended a special welcome event at his church, St Barnabas in Alwoodley, despite freezing temperatures and high winds.

The British National Overseas Passport scheme was introduced in January to allow Hong Kong citizens to reside in the UK after the introduction of a National Security Law which impacts freedom and rights in the former British territory. So far more than 80,000 people have taken up the opportunity to relocate.

Rev Young has been speaking to Premier about the event.

"It was an amazing event. We had around 70 to 80 new arrivals from Hong Kong and amazing spreads of both Chinese and British food. People were able to meet with local people from the community and get to know them. There were activities for families and it was just a really joyful and celebratory time for everybody."

Rev Young is the only clergyperson of Chinese heritage in the Diocese of Leeds. 

"My father came to the UK from Hong Kong in the 1970s, so for me, it is wonderful to help welcome a new generation of Hong Kong migrants to the UK.

"Welcome and hospitality is such an important part of our faith and I hope that the Church can play an important role in helping new arrivals to settle down well in the UK."

Rev Young says the government estimates that this influx of people from Hong Kong may be the biggest planned migration from outside the EU since the arrival of the Windrush generation from the Caribbean in the 1950s. The Windrush scandal saw thousands of UK residents - most of whom were originally from the Caribbean - wrongly classed as illegal immigrants. He says it's vital lessons from the past are learned and not repeated. 

"It is important that we as a Church learn the lessons of Windrush and actively welcome new arrivals in our country, no matter where they come from.

"With Windrush so many people from the Caribbean came to the UK, and they didn't find a welcome in our churches here. The government estimates that in the next five years, it could be as many as 130,000 people from Hong Kong who choose to come and live in the UK.

"We're not really involved in the politics of what's going on in Hong Kong, we're mostly just focusing on welcoming whoever arrives on our shores really. But I think anybody who moves very quickly from one very different area of the world to another, will always feel quite an intense sense of culture shock. A lot of the people I've met are happy to be in the UK. They enjoyed the welcome that they've received from local communities, but there's also that sadness that they have moved away from some of their friends and family as well."

Rev Young hopes other churches across the country arrange similar events.

"We're hoping that all churches would be able to welcome all new arrivals to the UK,  not just people from Hong Kong. The church should be somewhere where everybody can feel welcome, particularly at this time of year, as we are approaching Christmas. Welcome is - and should be - part of our DNA as Christians. It's fundamental that we, as churches in this country, learn how to welcome people and make them feel as though they are part of us."

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