Archbishop of Canterbury responds to Government statement on Syrian refugees

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On the 7th September 2015 the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, responded to the Prime Minister’s statement about Syrian refugees and counter-terrorism, which had been repeated in the House of Lords by Baroness Stowell.

Archbishop of CanterburyThe Archbishop of Canterbury: I warmly welcome this start in the response of domestic hospitality, which comes in addition to the very considerable work that we have done overseas through the overseas aid budget and the work of the Royal Navy. It is on that basis that, challenged by this, the churches, starting this morning, are working urgently to add to what they have already been doing locally, and to work together to achieve and support a coherent, compassionate and credible public policy.

I have spoken today to Cardinal Nichols about this. Does the Minister accept, however, that 20,000 is still a very slim response in comparison both to the figures given by the UNHCR and the European Commission, and to the other needs we see, and that it is likely to have to rise over the next five years, unless of course the driver, which I hope she accepts is local conditions in the camps, is dealt with significantly? Does she also accept that within the camps there is significant intimidation and radicalisation, and that many of the Christian population, in particular, who have been forced to flee, are unable to be in the camps? What is the Government’s policy about reaching out to those who are not actually in the camps? Finally, does she accept that, regardless of membership of Schengen, a problem on this scale can only morally and credibly be dealt with by widespread European collaboration?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am very grateful to the most reverend Primate for being here today and contributing on this Statement, and for his leadership, and that of other faith leaders, over the last few days and the recent period while we have been observing such terrible scenes. He raises some important points. He described our response as a slim one; he will not be surprised that I do not accept that definition. As I have said, we do not believe that this is just about providing refuge to individuals here in the United Kingdom; we must support people who are in and around Syria and are very much in need, and we have been doing that in a substantial way. No other European country has contributed as we have over the last few years, and I really believe that we should be proud of what we have done to support people in that part of the world. We want to continue doing so, and we are targeting our aid in that area—using the increase, in monetary terms, in the aid budget because of the rise in GDP—so that we can ensure that, as the most reverend Primate highlights, local conditions in the camps are addressed. As for the Christians being among those who are most in need because they are not receiving the support that others are, this is something for us to discuss with the UNHCR. It is important that when the UNHCR considers the criteria for those who are most vulnerable, those should include Christians who are not receiving the kind of support that others may receive.

(Via Parliament.UK)