Print Version    Email to Friend
Cardinal hails u-turn in child refugee policy

MANCHESTER (CNS): Vincent Cardinal Nichols, from Westminster, the United Kingdom (UK), welcomed a U-turn by the British government over the resettlement of child refugees.

“I am very happy that the government is extending an offer of sanctuary to a greater number of children fleeing conflict, while continuing to combat the evils of human trafficking,” said the cardinal in a statement in response to a May 4 announcement by the prime minister, David Cameron, that the UK will accept an unspecified number of unaccompanied children who arrived in the European Union (EU) from Syria.

Under pressure from Parliament, Cameron said the UK would not only take in 3,000 children from refugee camps in the Middle East, but also that children registered in Greece, Italy or France before March 20, the date when an EU deal with Turkey to repatriate migrants took effect, would also be eligible for resettlement in Britain.

However, the prime minister said that migrant children who arrive after that date would not be taken in because the government does not want to encourage human trafficking. 

In his statement, Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, expressed satisfaction that the government had struck the right balance.

He said, “The UK’s response to the refugee crisis is improving the lives of thousands.’ He added, “I encourage the Catholic community to keep on playing its part through working with local authorities, being generous with time and resources, and extending the hand of welcome to refugees arriving here.”

Days earlier on May 2, in his homily at an annual diocesan Mass for migrants Cardinal Nichols said, “While it is right to keep silent when children are asleep, it is never right to stay silent when they are perishing at sea or at risk in hostile camps.”

He told the congregation that they should protest against immigration policies that could put the lives of children at risk, suggesting that new policies aimed at restricting immigration meant that the United Kingdom could not show greater hospitality to refugees even if its citizens wanted to.

“From those who deal in creating fear of migrant people and who seek to profit from that fear, whether financially or politically, we ask for a more responsible leadership, a leadership that looks at all that we gain as well as the problems we confront,” the cardinal said.

Alluding to the EU deal with Turkey to expel migrants, he criticised “international plans that often seem to treat people purely as problems or even as packages to be sent from place to place.”

He said, “We hope that the way in which governments respond to the immense challenge which faces us will take more seriously the personal generosity of so many, in this country, too, who are willing to welcome refugees and desperate migrants and yet are hindered from doing so by policies shaped more by caution and fear.” 

He continued, “We hear reports of sadness, dismay, frustration, anger, rejection and humiliation: from Iraq and Jordan, to Libya and Calais” adding that, “Yes, this is ‘a vale of tears’ as both the Mediterranean and the Aegean Seas become, in the Holy Father’s words, graveyards for children, the elderly and their families.” 

More from this section