It is not racist to fear migrants, says Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has said it is not wrong to fear migration, is welcomed warmly by Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi during his recent visit to Burundi.Reuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has stated that it is not racist to fear immigration.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told Parliament's House Magazine: "Fear is a valid emotion at a time of such colossal crisis. This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable.

"There is a tendency to say 'those people are racist', which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous."

"In fragile communities particularly – and I've worked in many areas with very fragile communities as a clergyman – there is a genuine fear. And it is really important that that fear is listened to and addressed. There have to be resources put in place that address those fears."

He said: "What happens about housing? What happens about jobs? What happens about access to health services?"

Speaking as the pro-brexit group Christians for Britain announced former Conservative MP and committed Christian Ann Widdecombe as its president, he said the Church of England will not be taking a position on Europe and the coming referendum.

He said: "You can't say 'God says you must vote this way or that way'. I don't think there is one correct Christian view, one way or the other."

And again, he returned to his use of the language of fear. "It should be about what we fear. Fear is a valid emotion. Fear of what happens if we leave, fear of what happens if we stay. You can understand why that really matters. Fear is legitimate."

He also said Britain, which has pledged to take in 20,000 refugees over the next few years, should take more. "We have to play our part. I was in Germany last weekend doing some work with some churches there. The Germans took 1.1million last year. And it does make 20,000 over several years sound very thin."

On this also, though, he understood people's concerns: "The Government is rightly concerned about effectively subsidising people smuggling."

His interview comes just two years after he said he was concerned about a surge of racism in Britain and about politicians who portrayed immigration as a "deep menace that is somehow going to overwhelm the country".

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith welcomed the Archbishop's comments.

He told BBC Radio 4 Today that even a mere mention of immigration in previous years could result in the speaker being immediately labeled as a racist.

"For far too many years what's happened is that in a sense the elites have said it's terrible to talk about immigration, and if you do you're racist. They shut down the debate for many years," Duncan Smith said.

"I can even remember back when Tony Blair was Prime Minister to even mention immigration was to be accused of being a racist, if you talked in terms about asylum seekers.

"That accusation probably silenced legitimate discussion. It means that if you do that what happens is you push this debate to the margins – which is what you're seeing in Europe. Then political parties with very poor intentions and nasty motives take control."