Irony is not a strong suit in the Home Office
Ekklesia reports that
Three of Britain's leading Free Church denominations have called for
justice and compassion for asylum seekers, following a statement from immigration Minister Phil Woolas criticising human rights groups and lawyers for assisting the vulnerable.
Speaking on behalf of The Baptist Church, The Methodist Church and The
URC, the Rev Dr Rosemary Kidd said: “Genuine asylum seekers are frequently
escaping from persecution and torture. They often arrive in the UK, speaking no
English and with no identifying documents.
They are vulnerable, deeply traumatised people, seeking sanctuary and human
“There are inevitably some ‘false’ claimants who should, of
course, be efficiently identified through proper legal processes, and then
deported to their country of origin. The view of the Joint Public Issues Team,
however, is twofold – and quite the reverse of the concerns of Mr Woolas.
“Firstly, the asylum appeals system places these already abused people
under further intense suspicion, and the onus is on the individual to explain
his or her circumstances under repeated investigation. Secondly, the recent
introduction of the Immigration Points System is likely to make it increasingly
hard for genuine asylum seekers to enter the UK legally, and thus to claim
sanctuary within these shores at all.
“The Joint Public Issues Team calls on the minister to ensure that all
claimants are treated with dignity at every stage of the asylum process, and to
ensure that people who have already suffered greatly in their country of origin
are not further damaged by unsympathetic treatment or rejection by the
Yesterday Ekklesia also reported reactions to Woolas' comments here. Comments included:
Vaughan Jones, director of the agency Praxis, which works with displaced people
across London, who is also a United Reformed Church minister, described the
statement from the new Immigration Minister as "a disturbing
"Asylum seekers and migrants are human beings with rights and
it is quite proper and legitimate for the law to defend those rights and for
people of good will to advocate for and support people in need, vulnerable to
exploitation and potential victims of miscarriages of justice," said Mr
He continued: "Attacking the defenders of human rights is not the most
edifying of stands, although it is regrettably not without precedent.
The Law Society, the governing body for solicitors, has accused the
minister of running "against the rule of law" and making "unacceptable"
Paul Marsh, President of the Law Society, said: "The issue of
immigration is one for the politicians to debate, but central to that debate
must be the fact that those seeking asylum can do so in a legal system that
operates under the rule of law.
He continued: "There is no reason why anyone should be denied access to justice on the basis that they are from another country and seeking asylum, which is what the minister seems to suggest."