Over 100 faith leaders call on Boris Johnson to accept at least 10,000 refugees a year

Thousands of refugees and migrants have made dangerous journeys to find safety.CAFORD/Ben White

A letter signed by over 1,000 faith leaders is urging Boris Johnson to make the UK a place of welcome for refugees.

The former Home Secretary announced last month that the UK would accept 5,000 refugees from 2020 to 2021, but the letter asks the Prime Minister to increase this number to 10,000.

"10,000 people a year, including at least 1,000 vulnerable and unaccompanied children from conflict zones and Europe. As one of the world's richest countries, seeking to build and demonstrate global cooperation and goodwill, this is a small ask of the UK," the letter reads.

The faith leaders, who represent all of the major faiths, said that the UK should offer a "route to safety" that would spare refugees the ordeal of having to turn to smugglers and make life-threatening journeys "in overcrowded dinghies".

"Thousands more refugees will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety in the UK, a country with a long history of offering sanctuary to those in need," they wrote.

While they described the initial commitment of 5,000 refugees per year a "welcome development", they urged the Prime Minister to give assurances that it would not simply be a "one-off".

They spoke positively, though, about the Government's decision to broaden the geographical focus of resettlement beyond the Middle East and North Africa, which they said would enable the UK to "respond to where there is the greatest need globally, which we hope will offer a lifeline to unaccompanied children currently surviving in camps and on the streets in Europe".

"Ambitious and effective programmes for resettlement to the UK offer a life-saving alternative to incredibly dangerous journeys in the hands of smugglers or traffickers," they wrote.

"This country should be proud to give people a route to safety that stops them risking their lives in overcrowded dinghies, or in wheel arches, or in refrigerated lorries."

They continued: "Today, there are families living in refugee camps who may be there for generations. There are people in conflict zones whose lives are in constant danger. There are children surviving in carparks and on the side of motorways in Europe; preyed on by traffickers and others who seek to do them harm.

"These are people who deserve a chance to rebuild their lives and to become part of British society, like so many refugees have before them."

Signatories to the letter included Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army UK and Republic of Ireland, the Most Rev John Davies, Archbishop of Wales, Derek Estill, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, Rev Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference, Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, Director of the Council of Christians and Jews, Harun Rashid Khan, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary of the Hindu Council UK.

Over two dozen Church of England bishops signed the letter, including the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelsmford, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield, and the Rt Rev Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield.