Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, President of Justice and Peace Scotland has focused on the plight of forgotten migrants in his letter for Justice and Peace Sunday which was observed in Scotland on 7th January.
In his letter, sent to every parish in the country, the Bishop reflected on his experience in November 2017 when he was a guest of Maria Skobtsova Catholic Worker House in Calais, and joined with the community there, along with Sécour Catholique (Caritas France), and other organisations witnessing firsthand the experience of the young migrants in Calais, who find themselves harassed and assaulted by the authorities as an increasingly aggressive policing operation seeks to prevent the re-establishment of a large camp, like "the jungle" which was demolished in October 2016.
Bishop Nolan noted that we are witnessing a migration on an unprecedented scale, fuelled not just by war, but by famine and poverty, and that were global spending on the military were reduced by 10% it would go a long way to meeting the UN Development Goals on eradicating poverty.
The visit to Calais by Bishop Nolan, joined by Bishop Paul McAleenan of Westminster, Lead Bishop for Asylum and Migration for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales was to highlight the situation in Calais, and the need for the UK government to work with the French to offer sanctuary to vulnerable young people, not abandoning them to the risks of exploitation and modern slavery.
An Early Day Motion (EDM 651) was tabled in Westminster before Christmas recognising the visit by Bishop Nolan and Bishop McAleenan, and joint statement which was issued calling on the government to expediate applications for family reunion under the Dublin III Regulations; to commit to the true spirit of the 'Dubs' Amendment' offering sanctuary to vulnerable young people in Europe; and to establish safe legal channels for applications for asylum/ entry to the UK to be established. The joint statement also calls on both French and UK governments to develop infrastructure in Calais to support dignified living conditions for those who are there.
Justice and Peace Scotland are asking for people to contact their MP (www.theyworkforyou.com/) asking them to support EDM 651.
Bishop Nolan's letter follows:
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We like to think that we are a welcoming people, and indeed we are. Towns and villages throughout Scotland have shown a warm welcome in recent months to asylum seekers and refugees seeking safety and a new life.
But many never get to set foot in our country to experience that welcome. The UK government controls immigration and that control ensures that many who wish to come here are hindered from doing so.
Last month I visited migrants in Calais and met people who have fled war and persecution. They hope for a better life in the UK, but meanwhile they endure harassment from the authorities designed to chase them away. Police remove their tents, confiscate their sleeping bags and move them on during the night as they sleep rough in the woods. There are unaccompanied children among these migrants. Their welfare is of particular concern.
Thankfully there are some who recognize a fellow human being in need and treat migrants with the kindness their human dignity demands. Sécours Catholique and volunteers from a variety of aid agencies supply food and clothing. Many of the volunteers are not Christian, but they certainly act as Christians should.
The number of those in France wanting to get to the UK is not large compared to the great number of refugees in Europe and the vast numbers throughout the world.
There have always been refugees. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were refugees in Egypt. But we have a refugee crisis for our time that is on an unprecedented scale worldwide. Perhaps if we spent less money funding war and more funding peace; perhaps if we put less effort into selling arms and more effort into eradicating poverty; then fewer people would be forced to leave their homeland and their families.
Military spending worldwide is $1.7 trillion annually. If that was reduced by only 10%, and that money spent on development, then the United Nations' development goals could be reached and poverty and hunger eradicated.
Meanwhile, there are many in our country who would like to welcome refugees. I know of people who, at no cost to the state, would happily house and support refugees while their asylum application was being heard. This is something the Scottish Government should seriously consider.
But it is the UK Government which controls the numbers allowed to enter the country. So far the UK response to the global refugee crisis has been less than generous.
Pope Francis speaks of the world as being our common home, may the part of that common home where we live be a place of welcome for those in need.
May I wish you every blessing as we begin this New Year, and may God bless our efforts as we work and pray for peace and justice for all.
Yours in Christ,
+ William Nolan
President of the Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission