Church leaders urge deportation amnesty: Immigration laws compared to Nazis' treatment of Jews

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BRITAIN'S immigration laws were attacked yesterday by a group of church leaders who likened them to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews. Representatives of most of the country's churches called on the Home Office to give an amnesty to about 6,000 people threatened with deportation.

The Rev Theo Samuel, moderator of the Churches Commission for Racial Justice, which has drawn up a report on the subject, described the current immigration system as 'a modern form of the terror Jewish families faced under the Third Reich'.

The Rev Dr Leslie Griffiths, president of the Methodist Conference, said the comparison with the Nazis was legitimate because families were terrified of the 'knock on the door' and the barbaric way in which some security guards treated people threatened with deportation. 'There have been some atrocities in this area,' he said.

He highlighted the case of a six- year-old girl who despite suffering from sickle cell anaemia has been ordered to leave with her family and go to Nigeria. The actions of the immigration officials in this case were 'the thought patterns of the Gestapo', Dr Griffiths said.

He continued: 'Christians must be particularly concerned that the people to whom these things happen are almost all black . . . it's a modern form of crucifixion. Something must be done urgently.'

The churches' attack on the Government's immigration policy is surprising in its ferocity and strength of language. It follows widespread criticism from civil rights groups about the stricter rules surrounding deportation.

The Churches Commission, which was set up by the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland, yesterday launched a campaign to help families with children who have been born and brought up in Britain but are due to be deported.

The commission, in its booklet Breaking Up the Family, has urged the Home Office to withdraw actions to deport an estimated 1,000 families who would come into this category. They suggest an amnesty for anyone who has lived in the UK for more than five years and who either are the parents of at least one child born in this country who has lived here for two years or are self-sufficient in terms of income and housing.

The new booklet was published in response to several infamous deportation cases, including that of Joy Gardner, a 36-year-old Jamaican woman, who died in July last year from injuries she received during a struggle with police officers who were attempting to deport her and her young son.

Mr Samuel said: '1994 is the International Year of the Family. It is also a year in which the injustices and the racism at the heart of British immigration law have come home to roost.'

Most deportation cases involve people who have allegedly been smuggled into the country, overstayed their holiday visa, or are working illegally.

Nicholas Baker, the immigration minister, said: 'The Government's policy is to operate an immigration control which is both firm and fair. Each case is considered on its individual merits. Where British-born children are involved, full account is taken of their position. An amnesty of illegal parents has been suggested before, but it would be an unjustified reward for those who breach the immigration laws.'

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