Songs of Praise in Calais: Migrant priest fears for his family if his face is shown

Christian migrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia arrives for Sunday mass at the makeshift church in "The New Jungle" near Calais, France, August 2, 2015.Reuters

The Eritrean priest at the centre of the BBC Songs of Praise episode set to broadcast from a makeshift church in the Calais migrant 'jungle' has said that he does not want his face shown.

Hagos Kesete told the Daily Mail – which used a photograph of him to illustrate the story – he was worried that if his picture were seen in his own country his family might be at risk.

Kesete, who fled the East African country and is trying to enter the UK illegally, is one of two priests who serve the church, though it is not clear whether he has been ordained. He said: "People have a problem. They don't want cameras. Our government sees us on camera and maybe our family have a problem." He added: "I have fear inside. I am not happy to speak on video. The BBC has not asked me. I won't appear on video."

The church is made of wood and tarpaulins and has been constructed by volunteers and camp residents. Up to 5,000 people live in the camp and make regular efforts to cross to the UK.

Eritrea is one of Africa's most brutal regimes, with widespread human rights abuses. Christians not belonging to a recognised denomination are persecuted for their faith and there is large-scale conscription into what has been described as a slave army. Those who refuse conscription face imprisonment and torture.

Around 37,000 Eritrean refugees arrived in Europe last year, compared to less than 13,000 in 2013. They now make up around 22 per cent of all migrants arriving in Italy by sea.

The BBC has drawn criticism for the Songs of Praise edition, which has not yet been filmed, with social media comments accusing it of politicising the programme, though Christians have largely welcomed it.

A BBC spokesperson said: "Programme details have yet to be finalised so we have nothing further to add at this stage."