The Churches’ Rural Group has teamed up with the Arthur Rank Centre, a Christian organisation which works to support and advise the rural church community, to produce a leaflet advising rural churches on how to give the best pastoral care to migrant workers in their congregations.
The CRG and the ARC says despite the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act passed on 8 July 2004 there is still no real support for migrant workers in the rural community and that the rural church must step in to compensate for this shortcoming.
The leaflet, produced with funding from Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, aims to be a guide for all rural communities which have migrant workers in their midst.
One of the points of advice in the leaflet advises churches “to invite migrant workers to active members of the church, identify their faith and help them to find ways to practise it”, as well as to “offer support and sanctuary if necessary”.
James Sheridan MP, who was responsible for the legislation, praised the initiative of the CRG and ARC at the House of Commons last month: “I am delighted that the Churches Rural Group and the Arthur Rank Centre have worked together to produce this leaflet to offer guidance to local churches on supporting rural migrant workers.
“Having successfully piloted the Gangmasters Bill through Parliament I am aware that the support of groups such as Churches is essential if we are to ensure that migrant workers are not exploited by unscrupulous gangmasters.”
Approximately 75,000 seasonal casual workers are employed in the UK, and they are vital to the rural economy, carrying out the essential sowing, planting, harvesting, sorting and packing.
The Church must work to integrate these migrant workers, who are often made to feel unwelcome, into the community, a press release said.
Secretary of the Churches’ Rural Group Jenny Carpenter said: “Migrant workers often face hostility, distrust and dislike from the communities they come to. The Morecambe Bay tragedy highlighted just how vulnerable people like the Chinese cockle pickers can be.
“The establishment of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority is a vital step in the battle to end exploitation of these people; but it won’t change their experiences at a local level.”
She added: “We are suggesting that the church takes a lead in providing social contacts, help in communicating with their families back home – for instance via the internet; assistance with accessing interpretation facilities, or welcoming them to the services of worship and providing a place for daily prayer.
“Christians have a God given responsibility to care for strangers and socially excluded people; these resources will help churches to rise to this challenge.”
Twenty thousand leaflets are to be distributed to those communities with rural industries particularly reliant on migrant workers, including Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Vale of Evesham, Cornwall and Kent.
Rural Churches Publish Leaflet on Care of Migrant Workers
Published 03 August 2005 | Maria Mackay