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Catholic Church urges new Home Secretary to " welcome the stranger in our midst" and to " offer asylum to all those who require it."  

Justice and Peace National Secretary Calls for rethink on asylum and immigration  

Scottish Catholic Justice and Peace National Secretary Richard McCready has written to the new Home Secretary Charles Clarke congratulating him on his appointment as Home Secretary. Dr McCready highlighted the work which the Commission has done in relation to asylum and immigration and called on Mr Clarke and his colleagues to consider their policy towards asylum.  

Richard McCready said, ˜I wanted to congratulate Mr Clarke on his appointment to one of the major offices of State. He will certainly have his work cut out. I reminded Mr Clarke of the work of amongst others our recently retired President Bishop John Mone in highlighting the treatment of asylum seekers and of the children of asylum seekers in particular.  

We believe that we have a duty to welcome the stranger in our midst and I wanted to ask Mr Clarke whether he felt the government s current policy reflected a welcome for the stranger. Mr Clarke does not have an easy job, he has a duty to protect us all but also a duty to protect those who flee persecution and seek asylum in our midst.  

In a Christmas message to be broadcast on Radio 4 on Christmas Day, Cardinal Keith O'Brien will also criticise the UK's asylum and immigration system, especially the "incarceration" of children in detention centres like Dungavel. Cardinal O'Brien who is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People will ask in his broadcast;  

"How do we welcome strangers. In our detention centres for asylum seekers, refugees including children are virtually incarcerated there while their petitions for asylum in our country are scrutinised, sometimes taking weeks and months. While many of us enjoy an abundance of good things “ how willing are we to share these good things with others?"  


Ends  

Peter Kearney  
Director  
Catholic Media Office  
5 St. Vincent Place  
Glasgow  
G1 2DH  
0141 221 1168  
pk@scmo.org  
www.scmo.org  


Notes to editors  

A copy of the letter is shown below.  

Further details Richard McCready  
0141 333 0238  
07711 920 760  


The Right Honourable Charles Clarke MP  
The Home Office  
Queen Anne s Gate  
London  
SW1H 9AT  

15 December 2004  

Dear Mr Clarke  

I would like to offer you my congratulations and wish you all the best in your new job. I know that the work of the Home Office is a major part of government and you will have a great deal of work to do in the next few weeks.  

On behalf of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Scotland I am writing to you to ask that you review the government s asylum and immigration policy. As you may know this Commission has been campaigning for fairer treatment for asylum seekers. Our recently retired President, Bishop John Mone, campaigned for fairer treatment of children held in custody in the Dungavel Detention Centre.  

We believe that behind the statistics and headlines about asylum and immigration we must remember that we are dealing with real people. These are real people who are often deeply damaged by the process which leads to them seek asylum.  

We believe that we have a duty to welcome the stranger in our midst and that our treatment of strangers is a test of a civilised society. I would call on you and your colleagues to reconsider the government s asylum and immigration policy. I urge you to consider implementing policies which welcome the stranger in our midst and which offer asylum to all those who require it.  

I look forward to working with you over the next few weeks and months and I reiterate our congratulations on your new appointment.  

Best wishes,  

Yours sincerely  

Dr Richard McCready  
National Secretary  

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