Columbans sign Rwanda Bill open letter to the Prime Minister

by Guest Contributor

The Columban Missionaries in Britain, along with 250 other organisations have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, expressing outrage at the Rwanda Bill.

An open letter, signed by over 250 organisations from across civil society in the UK, has been sent to the Prime Minister following the passage of the Government’s Rwanda Act.

The civil society organisations have come together to make a stand against the Government’s Rwanda Plan, which they say breaks international law and “abandons our duty to share in the global responsibility towards those forced to seek safety”.

The Rwanda Act is described in the letter as “a shameful and performatively cruel law that will risk people’s lives”, whilst the UK Government is accused of rewriting facts following the UK Supreme Court’s ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country in which to send refugees.

The letter has been signed by charities, human rights organisations, organisations supporting children, women, LGBTQ+, and disabled communities, and faith groups.

Signatures across the refugee sector include the Refugee Council, JCWI, Jesuit Refugee Service UK, Detention Action, Refugee Action, Freedom from Torture and Care4Calais. Other high profile signatories include Oxfam GB, Human Rights Watch, Children’s Rights Alliance for England and Disability Rights UK.

Mauricio Silva, Columban Interreligious Dialogue Co-ordinator explains, “Refugees flee their homes to escape war and persecution. It is their human right to seek safety. It is unfair that the  UK Government choses to punish refugees rather that offering them protection. The passing of this Bill increases an already hostile environment. The Columbans in Britain call on politicians to rethink this decision; a  decision which outsources the country’s responsibility to offer sanctuary to those who need it.”

Yasmin Halima, Executive Director, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: “At a time when our politicians should be focused on supporting struggling communities and protecting our NHS, they have instead sat in parliament, and decided to tear up our commitment towards refugees, in shameful and unprecedented ways.” She adds, “This Act of performative cruelty does nothing to improve anyone’s lives. It simply punishes people in most need, by allowing the government to forcibly expel people who’ve fled danger, including children & survivors of trafficking, to a place they’ve never been, where they could face further abuse.” She goes on to say, “Most of us recognise this desperate act of political theatre for what it is, and urge the government to stop relentlessly attacking refugees, and focus on creating a fairer and more caring society.”

James Wilson, Director of Detention Action, said: “With this Act, this government has turned its back on reality, as well as on our responsibility to protect refugees. People seeking asylum here should have their claims heard in the UK, fairly and efficiently, so they are not returned to danger and can, instead, rebuild their lives in our communities.”

Steve Smith, CEO of Care4Calais, said: “People who have survived war, torture and persecution should not be facing forced removal to a country that the UK Supreme Court ruled is unsafe. This Bill does nothing to make Rwanda a safe country for refugees. All the problems with Rwanda’s asylum system, including, for example, the fact they haven’t granted refugee status to the single largest nationality claiming asylum in the UK, Afghans, remain. Politicians are playing fast and loose with the future of human beings, and it must be stopped.”

Sarah Teather, Director at Jesuit Refugee Service UK, added: “The Safety of Rwanda Bill is as inhumane as it is absurd. Its passage into law is another step towards enacting a cash-for-humans scheme that will destroy lives and plunge vulnerable people into danger.” She adds, “The point of this Bill is simply to pretend, in the face of all the evidence, that such danger doesn’t exist. It marks a continued abandonment of our duty towards people seeking sanctuary here. We call on politicians to scrap the cruel Rwanda plan and all attempts to outsource asylum. This is not who we are.”

Following many years of community engagement, the Columban Missionaries in Britain are actively involved in grassroots initiatives that bring together people from different faith traditions, cultures and religions. We particularly focus on supporting people seeking sanctuary in the city. Mauricio Silva is Co-ordinator of Fatima House, which provides safe accommodation and sanctuary to female asylum seekers in Birmingham City Centre. Besides this, his focus continues to be on building relationships and supporting interfaith initiatives particularly among migrants and disadvantaged communities across Birmingham.

Do you share our concerns?

Please consider contacting the MP to share your concerns regarding the passing of the hostile Rwanda Bill.

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