Cardinal O'Brien calls on Scottish MP's to consider the implications of Asylum & Immigration Bill.
The letter to all of Scotland's MP's from Cardinal Keith O'Brien, President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples is shown below together with a note of serious concerns about the proposed legislation from the Catholic Church's Justice & Peace Commission.
Letter to Scottish MPs regarding the Asylum and Immigration Bill
"A couple of weeks before his death in 2001 the late Cardinal Winning asked whether Scotland was ˜making strangers welcome? He was concerned about politicians ˜being tempted to outdo each other in recommending ever more draconian methods to deal with some of the most hurt and vulnerable people in our country. I fear that the latest proposals for asylum seekers, including taking children into care, demonstrate that Cardinal Winning s worry about politicians was well placed. These views are shared by many Christians.
I ask you as one of Scotland s MPs to consider whether your vote on the Asylum and Immigration Bill on Monday (March 1st) will demonstrate that the stranger is welcome in our midst.
As statistics show asylum seekers who come to this country are normally victims of injustice in their own country and they should be protected in our midst whilst their claims are examined. They should be protected to the standards outlined in UN Refugee Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The new Bill, regrettably, in some areas falls short of these standards.
The vote on the Asylum and Immigration Bill is an opportunity to demonstrate whether Scotland is a welcoming country or not. We must welcome the stranger in our midst and government should act accordingly.
Yours sincerely in Christ
+Keith Patrick O'Brien
Archbishop of St. Andrews & Edinburgh
President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland
Concerns about the proposed legislation from the Catholic Church's Justice & Peace Commission
1. The Bill would remove the right to a second tier appeal and put the appeal system beyond the reach of the courts by denying the right to judicial review, this would remove a vital check on initial decisions that are notoriously poor. Over 15,000 initial decisions were overturned on appeal in the last twelve months. If these decisions are not made correctly then people who are wrongly returned could face torture, imprisonment or death. Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has described parts of the Bill to be 'inherently objectionable' The Committee has stated that plans for a single-tier Tribunal whose decisions are immune from challenge in the courts, could violate the Convention rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. The need for adequate judicial scrutiny is even greater for immigration and asylum decisions, described as 'poor' by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
2. The Bill could result in children being removed from families and placed in care. Irresponsible parents may place their children in care and disappear into the black economy. This goes against much of the government's policies towards the care of children.
3. The Bill will make it a criminal offence for refugees to arrive in the UK without a passport unless they can provide a reason acceptable to the Home Office. Being told by an agent to destroy papers appears not to be an acceptable defence. Many vulnerable people are trafficked and are told to destroy their documents, the government should target the traffickers rather than those whom they exploit.
For further information, contact;
Dr. Richard McCready
Justice & Peace Commission
mobile 07711 920 760
Catholic Media Office
5 St. Vincent Place
0141 221 1168