English and French bishops in joint appeal over treatment of migrants

(Photo: Reuters)

Bishops on both sides of the English Channel have appealed to their countries for more "constructive" policies on migrants and refugees than "closing frontiers".

In a joint statement to coincide with World Refugee Week, the Anglican and Catholic bishops called for "better treatment" of undocumented migrants trying to reach Britain from France. 

They were critical of current policies, which they said were being driven by "prejudice and fear".

"These are fellow humans who deserve to be helped to find places where they can live in dignity and contribute to civil society," they said.

"With sadness, we observe the lack of hope that drives people in distress to become exploited by traffickers and add to the profits of their illegal trade."

The bishops went on to say that they were committed to creating a "climate of welcome".

"We are heartened by those who generously offer financial and material support, time and skills, shelter and accommodation, whatever their religious conviction," they said.

"They ignore the myths that lead to prejudice and fear that apparently prevent politicians from creating new and constructive policies that go beyond closing frontiers and employing more security staff.

"Their stories should be heard before decisions about their futures are announced." 

Figures show that 5,000 people have attempted the dangerous crossing in the first half of 2021.

Kent County Council has threatened legal action against the government over the crisis and refused to take any more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children into its care.

The council, which already has care of 400 unaccompanied migrant children, said its services were under "extreme pressure" and had reached "the limit of safe capacity".