UK Church leaders call for end to hostile environment

The Church of Scotland and 19 other church leaders from across the UK have urged the Home Secretary to put an end to the hostile environment.

In an open letter to Sajid Javid, signed by Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, they argue that destitution deliberately inflicted by the UK Government is “inhumane” and leads to racial discrimination.

Homeless Jesus installation
This installation in Glasgow city centre shows Jesus as a homeless person. Photo courtesy of Kathrine Stokes

The hostile environment is the web of government policies designed to make life so difficult for people who cannot prove they have the right to live in the UK that they will choose to leave.

The letter states: “People who do not look or sound ‘British’ are now facing increased difficulty in finding homes and employment, because landlords and employers are being asked to play the role of border guards.”

The leaders, including representatives from the Anglican, Catholic, Methodist Churches, have asked the Home Secretary “to seize this opportunity and adopt an approach to immigration that treats every individual, whatever their status, with humanity, dignity, respect and fairness.”

The letter states: “As Christians we assert the importance of offering welcome to the stranger and caring for the vulnerable, whoever they are.

“Many of our churches support those who have suffered hardship because of the hostile environment.”

Rev Brian Casey of Springburn Parish Church in Glasgow is currently leading a high profile campaign to prevent Giorgi Kakava, a 10-year-old orphan asylum seeker in his parish, and his grandmother Ketino Baikhadze from being deported to Georgia in the long-term.

Giorgi Kakava
Rev Brian Casey, Right Rev Susan Brown, Giorgi Kakava and his grandmother Ketino Baikhadze.

And Rev Linda Pollock of Possilpark Parish Church in the city is fighting to stop the Umeed Bakhsh family from being deported to Pakistan where Christians are persecuted.

Rev Linda Pollock
Rev Linda Pollock with Somer Umeed, Parveen Umeed, Areeb Umeed and Maqsood Bakhsh

Is it any wonder that Churches, members of the Joint Public Issues Team, are speaking out about immigration policy?

In Glasgow, up to 300 asylum seekers who have had their right to remain turned down are under threat of being evicted from their homes.

Once evicted they will lose the right to housing and will be faced with homelessness and destitution.

Housing charity Shelter Scotland has filed papers at Glasgow Sheriff Court to prevent two tenants being issued with so-called lock-change orders.

The issue will also be raised in the Court of Session in Edinburgh after a case was lodged by Govan Law Centre, which is also trying to prevent the evictions by Serco.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer
Rev Dr Richard Frazer

Dr Frazer said: “The Church of Scotland is deeply, deeply concerned at plans to evict up to 300 asylum seekers from their homes in Glasgow.

"Many of those facing eviction have already needed to flee their homes in the past from appalling violence, terror and war. It is unacceptable that this should be happening.”