Illegal Migrant Crossings in the Channel

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons on 28th April 2022.

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Photo of Chris Loder Chris Loder Conservative, West Dorset

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent discussions the Archbishop of Canterbury has had with his French counterparts on illegal migrant crossings in the Channel.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church of England is part of the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, and works in all those bodies to respond to the challenges of the largest movement of people since the end of the second world war.

Photo of Chris Loder Chris Loder Conservative, West Dorset

In Dorset we are taking care of 20 orphaned children who have lost their trafficked parents in illegal but also fatal crossings of the English channel. Now that the Church of England bishops are making co-ordinated political statements, can my hon. Friend tell me what advice the Archbishop of Canterbury is offering to prevent such situations from happening in the first place so that no more children are orphaned during illegal channel crossings?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Let me first thank all those in Dorset who are caring for the children who lost their parents while they were being trafficked across the English channel. Our hearts go out to them, and we must do everything possible to prevent further such fatalities.

I can tell my hon. Friend that the bishops in the House of Lords have called for more safe routes for allowing asylum seekers to apply at UK embassies, and for better co-operation with the French on the processing of applications across the channel.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The Archbishops of both Canterbury and York have, rightly, been outspoken about the plight of refugees. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that church leaders have an important role to play in contributing a prophetic voice, a voice of conscience, as part of the process of providing the nation with checks and balances, advocacy and accountability, in respect of refugees and other vulnerable groups?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Archbishop of Canterbury published what I thought was a very balanced article about these issues in The Daily Telegraph yesterday. The hon. Lady has made a valid point: while the Church will cause discomfort to all Governments and, if I remember rightly, did so to her party just before the last general election, I would far rather live in a country where that is the case than in Russia, where the Church is unstintingly supporting an illegal and barbaric invasion.

Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

I was recently humbled to be able to attend a vigil for peace organised by the Penrith and Eden Refugee Network and local churches. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking churches, faith groups and community groups in my constituency and across the country for all that they are doing to support the people of Ukraine and refugees through prayer groups, vigils, and donations of supplies and financial aid?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I thank my hon. Friend for raising an important point. The Church is partnering the Government in hosting many of the Ukrainian refugees for whom his constituents are quite properly caring.