Church of England bishops call on Government to let in thousands more refugees
More than 80 Church of England bishops have called on the Government to take in at least 50,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
Headed by Bishop of Durham Paul Butler, they state that the Prime Minister's current offer to house 20,000 in five years does not go far enough.
The 84 bishops describe the situation in Syria as "one of the largest refugee crises ever recorded", arguing that "a moral crisis of this magnitude calls each and all of us to play our parts."
They state: "We believe such is this country's great tradition of sanctuary and generosity of spirit that we could feasibly resettle at least 10,000 people a year for the next two years, rising to a minimum of 50,000 in total over the five year period you foresaw in your announcement. Such a number would bring us into line with comparable commitments made by other countries. It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily."
They also called on the Government to set up a national welcome organisaton to mirror the successful work done in previous refugee crises of the 1950s and 1970s, something which has already happened, with Bishop Butler as co-chair.
Bishop Butler said: "The Archbishop of York recently said that the current situation has rightly been described as a refugee crisis but it is also a time of opportunity for us as a country and for our wider continent. The opportunity before us is to rise above narrow self-interest, however defined, and to embrace the highest parts of our humanity.
"We recognise that both the Prime Minister and His Government responded to calls from the country for there to be a programme of resettlement and we are grateful to him for responding to those calls. However there is a real urgency to this issue with those increasingly being forced from their land as their homes are literally bombed into the ground. As the fighting intensifies, as the sheer scale of human misery becomes greater, the Government's response seems increasingly inadequate to meet the scale and severity of the problem. It is disheartening that we have not received any substantive reply despite an assurance from the Prime Minister that one would be received. There is an urgent and compelling moral duty to act which we as bishops are offering to facilitate alongside others from across civil society."
Other bishops on the list include Bishop of Ely Stephen Conway, Bishop of Worcester John Inge, Bishop of Norwich Graham James, Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines, Bishop of Lichfield Jonathan Gledhill, Bishop of Willesden Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Chester Peter Forster and Bishop of Bath and Wells Peter Hancock. The first woman bishop, Libby Lane, Bishop of Stockport, is also among the signatories along with Bishop of Taunton Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Hull Alison White and Bishop of Aston Anne Hollinghurst.
The whole of Europe has been affected by the crisis, prompting wide disagreement about how to respond. Hungary closed its border with Croatia this weekend prompting anger and distress among those attempting to cross. Slovenia is preparing to use its army to help deal with the influx.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon defended the UK's record. He said nobody was doing more to help the refugees in the camps.