Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood has strongly criticised the Government's failure to regularise undocumented migrants living in Britain. During his homily yesterday at the 'Mass in Support of Migrants Workers in London, at Westminster Cathedral, Bishop McMahon emphasised the importance of welcoming migrants. He said: "Welcoming and hospitality have always been at the very heart of the Bible and have been very much the tradition of the United Kingdom. Migrants helped to rebuild the United Kingdom following World War II and are continuing to regenerate London and this country. They make an indispensable contribution." Drawing attention to efforts made in recent years to extend this welcome to the many long-term undocumented migrants in the UK Bishop Malcolm said that these migrant workers have lived and worked in London for many years, often paying taxes and contributing to the economy and society; but their status in the UK was that of being here illegally, and many are threatened with deportation. Bishop McMahon said: "We are concerned here today with the plight of the long term migrants and the Government's failure to respond must be consistently challenged. For any government to choose to do nothing about regularisation is irresponsible and leaves thousands of migrants open to exploitation and fear. I can only describe it as shameful and unjust." "The Church has a duty to see that they are not exploited... It is a scandal, and totally unacceptable, when large numbers of migrants are paid less than the minimum wage. All of us vigorously support the [London Citizens] Living Wage campaign. And we must raise our voice for Strangers into Citizens, which is calling for a pathway into citizenship for migrants who have been resident in the United Kingdom for years and have put down roots." Bishop Malcolm said it was "unspeakable and shaming to read in The Tablet of hundreds of Zimbabweans facing deportation despite the escalating violence under an illegal and repressive regime. For any government to choose to do nothing about regularisation is irresponsible and leaves thousands of migrants vulnerable to exploitation and living in fear and limbo". He said he could only describe this as "shameful and unjust". Because of our common humanity, he went on, we have a duty to speak on behalf of these vulnerable migrants. "We are concerned with the plight of long-term migrants and the government's failure to respond must be continually challenged." If part of the Government's strategy was to "get tough" on illegal immigration, he said, alluding to Liam Byrne's comments on the Today programme this morning, "we must remain resolute and steadfast in this regard". He said another major Strangers into Citizens rally was planned for the May Bank Holiday next year: "to demonstrate to the Government that this issue has not gone away". More than 2,000 people from over 40 countries attended the Mass for Migrant Workers. The Principal Celebrant was Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, with Bishop Pat Lynch, auxiliary Bishop of Southwark and Bishop Thomas McMahon. Also present at the Mass was the Papal Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz and civic dignitaries included the Lord Mayor of Westminster. Over 50 priests took part in the celebration, many from the 47 ethnic chaplaincies in London. To hear the Homily in full click on: www.rcdow.org.uk/multimedia/?page=audio&player=62 )
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