Sunday, 1 March 2015

Immigration, Human Rights and the General Election

In their letter to Catholics ahead of the General Election, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales observe that:
We support policies which fairly regulate immigration and uphold the human rights of all, recognising the rights, dignity and protection of refugees and migrants.
Speaking today on BBC television, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has urged that the people who are at the centre of the debate about migration - those seeking to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe, those desperate to cross the Channel from Calais into the UK - be recognised and treated as persons:
"But what I want to say is these are people we're talking about - the people who drown in the Mediterranean trying to get into Europe, the people caged in Calais because they're desperate. We have to somehow keep the human person at the front of all these issues..."
It is well that we remind ourselves of the obligations that Britain has, not only arising from its membership of the European Union, but arising from its commitment to United Nations protocols. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example, expresses a right for all people to be recognised everywhere as a person before the law and as having a right to seek asylum in a country other than their own to escape persecution. The UN Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees also specifies the different aspects of a general obligation that refugees should be treated equally with nationals or with other foreign persons living in a country of refuge.

It is true to say that these obligations arise under the condition that a refugee resides legally in their host country. But equally one can ask whether the nations of the European Union, collectively and individually, are really willing to recognise that those seeking to enter their countries have a right to be recognised as refugees. Are these countries preventing people who should rightfully be allowed legal residence as refugees from entry, and therefore giving rise to their illegal entry? Are they, in effect, being denied any recognition as persons before the law, whose access as refugees to a country should be given full consideration?

As Cardinal Nichols observed, we have to somehow keep the human person at the forefront of these issues.

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