By Joachim Teigen
The background of the letter, dated 6 January, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, is the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill presented to the House of Commons by the government on 20 December. The bill outlines a new immigration system following the UK’s expected withdrawal from the European Union on 29 March.
Faith leaders react
The signees of the letter remind the government that the feast of the Epiphany commemorates the flight of the Holy Family. This story, they say, “echoes the plight of refugees around the world”.
Calling for a more humane system, they criticise the forced separation of refugee families, the lack of a right to work after six months for asylum seekers, conditions of detention, and the suspicion with which many refugees are met upon arrival.
Pope’s appeal to governments
On 7 January in the Vatican, Pope Francis addressed members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. His speech gave special attention to the defence of the most vulnerable.
The Pope pointed out how these include not only refugees but also migrants fleeing from poverty and social instability. He quoted Pope St. Paul VI, saying “We want to speak… for the poor, the disinherited, the unfortunate, and those who long for justice, a dignified life, liberty, prosperity and progress”.
The Holy Father further implored all governments to do their utmost to provide assistance to migrants, and praised the many countries who, at great expense, have already received a significant number of refugees and migrants.