Beginning on 19 June, Refugee Week is an annual festival, held UK-wide to recognise and celebrate refugees and people seeking sanctuary in the UK. Charities and organisations from across the UK hold events and campaigns to recognise and celebrate those who have sought sanctuary in the UK.
The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is COMPASSION. Compassion is a true mark of Christian character, but it has been missing from our Government in recent years, especially with regards to the issue of migration.
The Catholic response to migrants and refugees is rooted in the innate worth of each human person (Love the Stranger, Principle 1) and as such, we believe no human is illegal. The Department of International Affairs at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) recently published a document titled Love the Stranger which enumerates 24 principles outlining the Catholic response to migrants and refugees. The document upholds the right to migrate and calls on the Government to uphold their international obligations, to ensure the human dignity of migrants and refugees, and to exercise compassion to develop policies that are humane and effective. The document also calls for an extension of safe routes (such as resettlement programmes and visa schemes), which the Government insists already exist, but fails to recognise the limitations of such schemes.
Catholic Social Action Network (CSAN) has published a Guide to Refugee Resettlement in England and Wales, which outlines the various resettlement programmes and visa schemes available, as well as highlights the difference between asylum and resettlement. The Guide is an insightful resource and aims to better inform the public about the importance of resettlement as a complementary programme to the asylum system, which helps the UK to strengthen the global humanitarian response and support countries in the Global South, where the majority of refugees are hosted. Less than 1% of the world’s refugee population is actually submitted for resettlement to a third country (such as the UK) and there is no application process to which refugees can apply. As such, the claims that refugees are able to reach the UK via resettlement programmes is untrue for the vast majority of individuals, hence the call for an extension of safe routes (Love the Stranger, Principle 9).
The Catholic community across England and Wales has shown great compassion in welcoming, supporting and integrating resettled families via the Community Sponsorship Scheme and the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. However, the existing schemes are limited in the number of refugees they reach, and the Government must also do their part in ensuring fair and humane policies exist to support refugees and people seeking sanctuary in the UK.
This Refugee Week, CSAN calls upon us to Grow Your Compassion in any of the following ways:
- Read and Reflect on Love the Stranger;
- Write to your MP to ask them to exercise compassion and speak out against the cruel and unworkable Illegal Migration Bill;
- Support a nationwide campaign;
- Get in touch with your local Caritas agency to see how you can support their efforts.
Our care for Refugees and Asylum Seekers is also featured on the website of Caritas Leeds by going to the Resources page – https://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/caritas/our-resources/