Bishop views immigration proposals with caution

 The Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster and chair of the Bishops' Conference Committee for Migrants, has expressed reservations about the government's proposed legislation on Asylum, Immigration and Citizenship. While he welcomed the ending of the voucher system, Bishop Patrick said he was concerned at the lack of support for those seeking asylum. The Bishop said: "This White Paper is tender and tough at the same time. One example would be the proposals for managing migrants. It sounds good - recruiting skilled labour from overseas. But there is a flip side to this which shouldn't be overlooked. If we begin bringing in skilled people such as doctors and nurses we could start a brain drain in their home countries. We must look at ways of supporting sustainable development in these countries rather than taking away their much-needed qualified workers." Bishop Patrick said the proposals for organised resettlement through the UNHCR seemed very positive. "But once again," he said, "there is another side to this, which could lead to the adoption of a far harsher approach to refugees. One has to be careful. Many people are fleeing from persecution and famine, and under article 51 of the UN Charter we have a commitment to receive them." On the issue of support for asylum seekers, Bishop Patrick said he was worried that deterrence seemed to be a major theme in the proposals. He said: "We have to look at the root causes and address them directly. Why are these people coming here? Perhaps some of the money spent on them in Britain could could be better used on longer term projects in their countries of origin." Bishop Patrick also expressed concern that 1999 legislation which was to automatically provide bail for asylum seekers in detention, had not been implemented. He concluded: "There is a good deal in David Blunkett's proposals that could be very helpful. However we need to pray and hope that the resources are provided to pay for them. Without adequate funding, they will fail."

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