Don’t forget about asylum seekers

This week, the Guardian reported on an attempt to deport a young girl at risk of experiencing FGM. Now, if the child’s mother or father were attempting to take her out of the country to face this horrific abuse, then the courts and the Government would rightly be doing everything in their power to stop this from happening. However, here we see the Home Office become a complicit and willing partner in a potential crime.

That’s not the most horrifying thing about this case though. Even worse is the fact that this is not a unique case. If I’m aware of other cases of this kind, then no doubt there are more still.

Furthermore, this is only one way in which asylum seekers lives are put at risk by the Immigration system. It is not unusual for someone to be told that the facts of their claim are accepted, that they did suffer genuine harm in the past but that for various reasons, asylum will not be offered to them. It is put to them that whilst they suffered harm in the past, this does not mean that they will be at risk when they return and that they can easily access protection and justice back in their home country.

Our immigration system leads to people who have fled persecution effectively being locked up and treated as criminal suspects rather than victims seeking justice.  Families have been split up during these processes and sometimes one partner is deported separately leaving behind a mother and child.  There is a lack of alertness to the emotional impact on people of the abuse they have experienced and the potential for significant PTSD.

Today, I wanted to highlight these issues for two reasons.

First of all, because I want to take up Tim Farron’s point in his article the other day, that Christians need to care about more than just a narrow range of issues. In this case there isa  good reason to to do because many of those suffering do so because of their faith in Christ. However, I think we should have a concern for the wider needs of refugees who can arrive in the UK for a variety of reasons. As we have been thinking recently about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room that it is often within the immigration system that people first experience systemic racism.

Secondly, one of the things that has concerned me throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is our short attention spans, this world leaps from issue to issue, climate change gets forgotten as we focus on the danger of a virus, then concerns move on to terrorism, we have a passion concern about racism before our minds turn to economic issues or the latest debate around abortion.  It is important that we do not lose sight of issues that have been with us for some time and unlikely to go away soo.

So

  • Be alert to people within your community who may be at risk of returning to a dangerous situation
  • Pray for those at risk of persecution.  You can get information via Open Doors and The Barnabas Fund.
  • Be prepared to write to politicians and newspapers to highlight the issues raised.
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