August 8th, 2023. Newsletter from The Jesuit Refugee Service.
JRS UK are outraged to learn that people seeking asylum have now been moved onto the Bibby Stockholm barge. As it will now operate, the barge is quasi-detention. It is wholly inappropriate as accommodation for those seeking sanctuary. It represents a move to cut those seeking asylum off from our communities, and to dehumanise them.
Those forced to live on the barge will be subjected to overcrowding and, at best, face severe restrictions in movement. Large-scale, detention-like sites like this expose people who have fled danger to severe re-trauma; cause near universal, chronic sleep deprivation; and rapidly lead to deterioration in the mental health. At JRS UK, we know this only too well from our experience of accompanying people placed at Napier barracks. It is horrifying to see the government not only doubling-down on its plan to roll-out quasi-detention, but even finding new ways to expand this plan and deepen its inhumanity. Furthermore, people have been moved to the barge despite serious concerns about fire safety and the risk of the outbreak of disease in such close quarters, showing disregard not only for their dignity and wellbeing, but even for their lives.
We call for those placed on the barge to be urgently provided with safe alternative accommodation in British communities; for plans to use the Bibby Stockholm as asylum accommodation to be halted; and for the government to abandon all plans to accommodate asylum seekers on barges and in other quasi-detention settings.
Journey to 2030 Newsroom - Summer Edition! Summer is here, even if the weather doesn't think so! The last few months have been busy our end - getting out and meeting many of you at our deanery days, conferences, and working hard to get our resources evaluated and updated for you all. We also had a great time celebrating our own Edd's wedding last month! This summer, we'll be taking some time to refresh our website and resources, so do get in touch if you have any thoughts on what would be most useful. Check out below for our key updates, as well as loads of dates for your diary! Best wishes, John Paul, Ellie & Edd (added 10/07/2023)
Dear Friends, In recent days, the UK Government has backtracked on several key environmental pledges alongside announcing that it will allow the massive Rosebank oil field to go ahead. Rosebank could produce the same amount of CO2 as the annual emissions of the world’s 28 lowest-income countries combined – this at a time when global emissions must be nearly halved by 2030, with assurances from leading energy experts and scientists that we have enough oil and gas from existing developments to see us through the renewable energy transition. Despite UK Government claims that Rosebank will bolster energy security and lower prices, the Norwegian owners of Rosebank have said that the oil will be sold on international markets at international prices. The overwhelming majority of Rosebank’s oil will be exported. We are now inviting UK Church leaders of all denominations and backgrounds – from parish priests and free church ministers to bishops and other senior leaders, including leaders of Christian charities – to sign our letter calling on Rishi Sunak to stop Rosebank.
Article on Migration, Asylum Seekers. Summer 2023.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have produced a clear document entitled Love the Stranger. In this document they outline 24 principles.
1. Our response to migrants and refugees is rooted in the innate worth of each human person.
2. Recognising the universal destination of goods, we must not exclude others from having the means to flourish simply because of where they were born.
3. Nationalist or individualistic tendencies should not be allowed to take hold and prevent us seeing humanity as a single family
4. We recognise the right of all people to flourish in their homeland; every nation has a duty to uphold this by working for peace, promoting good governance and tackling the causes of poverty.
5. We ask our own government to help other countries address the factors that drive people from their homelands, including through the provision of a just aid budget, control of the arms trade, promotion of human rights and action to tackle the climate emergency.
6. We affirm the responsibility of the Church and civil society to help people in their homelands, including through the work of organisations such as CAFOD, Missio, Pax Christi, and Aid to the Church in Need.
7. We uphold the right to migrate, which may be exercised not only by those fleeing threats to their safety but also by those seeking to build a better life for themselves and their families.
8. We recognise that states have a right to control their borders; however, such measures cannot be based on economic factors alone; states have a responsibility to promote the common good of the people within their boundaries, but they also have obligations to the wider world.
9. We encourage the extension of safe routes such as resettlement programmes, visa schemes and humanitarian corridors, so that people can exercise their right to migrate in a dignified and humane manner.
10.We must not allow the concerns that some communities might have about migration to be exploited for political purposes or allow such concerns to develop into a xenophobic attitude; Christian communities must play their part in providing a genuine welcome to migrants and refugees.
11. We seek and promote dialogue with the local Church in people’s countries of origin, and the countries through which they have travelled, so that we can better understand their stories.
12. We defend the fundamental human dignity of all migrants and refugees, regardless of their legal status, including through policies providing access to decent accommodation, healthcare, and childhood education, as well as facilitating family reunification.
13. We call for the sanctity of life to be prioritised in all border security arrangements and reject measures that place people in danger or deny reasonable assistance to those in need.
14. We call upon the government to avoid the use of immigration detention, arbitrary expulsion and other practices which violate human dignity.
15. We urge the fulfilment of obligations under international frameworks protecting migrants and refugees, such as the Refugee Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Global Compact on Refugees, and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
16.Recognising the practical contribution that our Church can make, we support the work of Catholic organisations such as Caritas, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and the St Vincent De Paul Society, as well as parish and diocesan initiatives, in upholding the human dignity of migrants and refugees.
17. Reaffirming the Church’s responsibility to help eliminate the evils of trafficking and slavery, we support the work of Catholic organisations such as the Santa Marta Group
18. We recognise that trafficking and slavery are exacerbated by a lack of accessible alternatives for migration or seeking sanctuary – efforts to tackle trafficking and slavery must therefore go beyond more active law enforcement; we also need to support people to flourish in their homelands, establish more safe routes for migrants and refugees, and work to eliminate the demand for those services that slave labour continues to meet.
19. Migration enriches our culture – we must welcome migrants and refugees so that they can live fulfilled lives in their new country.
20. We support the simplification of routes to citizenship and opportunities for people to regularise their immigration status.
21. We celebrate the vital contribution of migrants and refugees to our parishes and the life of the Church in England and Wales.
22. We recognise the gifts that migrants and refugees bring which can enrich our society in many ways, including economically.
23. We encourage policies that give migrants and refugees the right to work, to facilitate their contribution to the common good of our society.
24. We call upon all those who employ migrants and refugees to treat them in a dignified and humane way.
A little further in this document the bishops say:
“The Church understands the concern that some countries and communities might have about high levels of migration. Pope Francis noted in Fratelli Tutti: “in some host countries, migration causes fear and alarm”30 and he recognised that this is part of our natural instinct. Governments have to balance the protection of the rights of their citizens with their duty to welcome migrants and refugees, but it is important that we do not allow this to result in hostility. Pope Francis has warned that fear and alarm about migration is often exploited for political purposes, leading to a xenophobic mentality as people close in on themselves. As Christians, we must never view migrants as less worthy, less important or less human. Indeed, we should promote a better life for those coming to our country and appreciate the many riches that people bring with them. Echoing Pope Francis, we affirm that our country will be more fruitful and productive the more it is able to develop a creative openness to others.31
As part of the Universal Church, we also have an opportunity and a responsibility to understand the stories of migrants and refugees, through dialogue with the Church in their home countries and those they have passed through during their journeys. In doing so we can better respond to Pope Francis’ call to remember that migrants and refugees “rather than simply being a statistic, are first of all persons who have faces, names and individual stories”32, and to offer a more human response, rooted in the reality of people’s experiences.
We, the U.K. have signed up to International Agreements which protect the rights of migrants to seek asylum in a country of their own choosing. Many refugees are seeking a safe place to live because of war, torture, climate change, persecution or just to seek a better life. All of these are valid and legal.
There is a problem in managing the numbers of asylum seekers in the country. The solution is simple. We need to put in place a system of listening to their stories, via interviews with Home Office personnel; making prompt decisions about granting leave to stay or not, and for those who can stay, allowing them to find a home and employment. For those who are refused leave to stay, they can appeal that decision. We need to ensure the appeals are heard speedily. (Please note that the majority of appeals at present, when eventually heard, are successful). For those whose appeals have failed, then we return them to their own country if it is safe to do so.
It seems to me that the problems we have today are caused by the governments’ failure to implement such a system. As for stopping the boats the answer is to establish a humanitarian way of allowing refugees to travel to this country, without risking their lives, and then dealing with them as outlined above.
At all times we all need to remember that every person is a human being, created in the likeness of God. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect.
Phil Mayland. 26/07/2023
Indigenous Leader from the Brazilian Amazon Alessandra Munduruku Is Awarded Goldman Environmental Prize
Alessandra Korap Munduruku, leader of the Munduruku Indigenous peoples from the Brazilian Amazon, has been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of her longstanding and extraordinary activism in defense of the Amazon rainforest and the rights of Indigenous peoples in Brazil and internationally.
Stopping Anglo American’s plan to explore for copper in their territory was one of the many struggles taken on by Alessandra and the Munduruku that led her to be awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. In May 2021, the company formally committed to withdrawing 27 mining research permits that were slated to overlap Indigenous lands in Brazil. These permits were a major threat to Indigenous peoples, as well as their territories and livelihoods.
We celebrate and honor the life and journey of resistance by the great Indigenous leader Alessandra Munduruku. May her example in defending her territory and advocating for the lives of Munduruku children and women be recognized by all and serve as a source of inspiration and strength for us to continue our work in defense of the Amazon in solidarity with all Indigenous peoples.
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Statements by the Columban Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation team added to our [Position Statements] page
The Birmingham Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission is funded by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and is a member of the Caritas - Archdiocese of Birmingham Network