Bishop challenges UK government over asylum seekers

 Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, Chairman, Office for Refugee Policy, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales issued the following statement today: How a country responds to those who turn to it for sanctuary says much about its history, its values and its people. In this regard, Britain's long and proud tradition of providing sanctuary to those fleeing persecution must always be defended and celebrated. In recent times, the government has been sending out mixed signals about its attitude to asylum seekers. While the Home Secretary says it is time to "stand up and be counted" in defence of asylum seekers, the Prime Minister holds out the prospect of withdrawing from our obligation to asylum seekers under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Leader of the Opposition has also been advocating draconian security measures for all asylum seekers. It is alarming that Britain as a country with a good record of accepting asylum seekers is becoming increasingly hard-line, fuelled by relentless attacks on asylum seekers by sections of the media. Not only are asylum seekers dismissed as abusers of the asylum system and as welfare scroungers, they are now also regularly viewed as would-be terrorists. The Home Secretary is right in arguing that most asylum seekers, whether genuine or not, have nothing to do with terrorism. Terrorism, whatever forms it takes - state, group or individual - must always be condemned, and if there are asylum seekers involved in such activities they must be apprehended and removed. At root, the question of asylum is a human rights issue. Asylum seekers are a symptom of a tragically-disordered world, victims of unjust social, economic and political structures. Asylum seekers are often people fleeing torture, persecution, starvation and abuses of human rights. They need protection and recognition of their human dignity. This must be the priority of our asylum system. I make a heartfelt plea that all public and official discussion of this human tragedy should bear the above in mind. Source: CCS

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