Theresa May: 'Settle more refugees'
Four UK churches write to the Home Secretary asking the Government to offer sanctuary to more people in need
The letter, co-ordinated by the Joint Public Issues Team, was sent to the Home Secretary on the eve of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees pledging conference in Geneva (30 March).
The churches praise the UK Government for its financial contribution to aid and relief efforts around Syria, before asking that 'this kindness is matched by offering sanctuary to more people in need'.
Currently the UK government has offered to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. But with many still attempting to seek sanctuary in Europe, and 456 refugee deaths already reported in the first ten weeks of the year, the churches believe this figure should be increased.
Some 4.8 million Syrians have been forced to flee across borders by five years of war, while another 6.6 million are internally displaced.
Resettlement offers 'an entirely safe alternative to risky passage across the Mediterranean'; will enable refugees to enter Europe in an orderly and protected fashion; and will counter the business of smugglers, the letter argues.
The letter highlights one important model of facilitating safe channels, which is being delivered by the Federation of Protestant Churches, in the framework of the project Mediterranean Hope. Through this programme, 100 people who had to flee Syria have already arrived safely in Italy in recent weeks. The total amount of people who are expected to enter in this test programme is 1,000.
The letter also highlights past generosity of Syrian people, who have welcomed refugees from Armenia, Palestine, Kuwait, Lebanon and Iraq over the past century.
'We urge national governments, and especially our own UK Government, to support an innovative and compassionate response,' the letter states. 'We cannot let 2016 be a repeat of 2015 in terms of the chaos, misery and death on Europe’s borders.
'Our plea is to respect the equal dignity of every human being.... Syria never closed its borders to those who fled their homes seeking safety and refuge.'
The Revd Phil Jump, a Baptist representative to the National Refugee Resettlement Council, was one of four signatories, alongside the Rt Revd Dr Angus Morrison, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Revd Gareth J Powell, General Secretary of the Methodist Conference, and the Revd John Proctor, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church.
Click here to view the full letter
Picture: Jody Hilton/IRIN