Following their conference on Saturday, entitled: Let justice roll down: asylum seekers and the Churches - the 150 delegates attending the Churches' Refugee Network have issued the following statement: 'This conference of representatives of Christian organizations and others actively working in the interests of asylum seekers welcomes the Prime Minister's recent promise of a 'top-to-bottom analysis of the immigration system and how it can be improved. It welcomes also his recognition that, far from being 'swamped' by immigrants, the UK has fewer foreign-born workers than other major European countries and is in urgent need of more to sustain the economy and to perform essential tasks in society; but regrets his policy statement that immigrants will be accepted only when this is 'in our country's interests'. The great majority of those who seek entry to this country will certainly, if allowed to stay, be of value to the economy and to British society in general, and if this is true also of those who come here seeking asylum. But it was the plight of refugees themselves, not the national interests of the receiving countries, that inspired the drafting of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, to which the UK is signatory. Our government has a moral as well as a legal duty to offer assistance and security to those fleeing persecution in their own countries. A system which gives preference to national interests over the basic rights and freedoms of innocent victims of oppression, torture and persecution is unworthy of the British people and an affront to the values we profess. Accordingly, it urges the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary: * to re-examine the present system and work for a harmonisation of the European Union asylum policies, bringing them up to humane best practice, in the light of the over-riding duty to welcome all those who have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries; * to ensure that immigration procedures are both just and efficient. * to put an immediate end to detention without charge, denial of means of subsistence, internment of children and young people, and all other consequences of the present regulations which demean, impoverish and seriously affect the health of many thousand asylum seekers in this country. Source: Churches' Commission for Racial Justice
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