Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Bishops slam Cameron's refugee crisis response and urge him to take in 50,000 Syrians

‘It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily’

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Sunday 18 October 2015 09:37 BST
The Prime Minister meeting refugees in Jordan last month
The Prime Minister meeting refugees in Jordan last month (Reuters)

Church of England Bishops have criticised David Cameron for the “increasingly inadequate” response to the refugee crisis and have called on the Government to take in 50,000 Syrian refugees, offering housing and foster care by way of support for the increased number.

Eighty four bishops signed a letter sent to the Prime Minister in September urging him to make a “meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily,” but released the documents because they have still yet to hear a response.

The Government promised to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years following mounting public pressure to strengthen the UK’s response to the refugee crisis on Europe’s borders.

But the bishops called on the Government to take in at least 30,000 more people, in line with other European countries’ commitments, promising to rally churches to provide housing and foster care to aid the effort.

Rt Rev Paul Butler said it was “disheartening that we have not received and substantive reply” from the Prime Minister.

The bishops wrote in the letter: “We believe such is this country’s great tradition of sanctuary and generosity of spirit that we could feasibly resettle at least 10,000 people a year for the next two years, rising to a minimum of 50,000 in total over the five-year period you foresaw in your announcement.

David Cameron on a visit to a school in Beirut, Lebanon, where many Syrian refugees have fled to (PA)

“Such a number would bring us in line with comparable commitments made by other countries. It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily.”

They also called for the creation of a National Welcome and Resettlement Board, to try to mirror the successful work carried out to help cope with past refugee crises in the 1950s and 1970s. This has been introduced since the letter was written.

It counts the Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, as its co-chairman. Speaking on behalf of the bishops, he said: "We recognise that both the Prime Minister and his Government responded to calls from the country for there to be a programme of resettlement and we are grateful to him for responding to those calls.

"However there is a real urgency to this issue with those increasingly being forced from their land as their homes are literally bombed into the ground. As the fighting intensifies, as the sheer scale of human misery becomes greater, the Government's response seems increasingly inadequate to meet the scale and severity of the problem.

"It is disheartening that we have not received any substantive reply despite an assurance from the Prime Minister that one would be received. There is an urgent and compelling moral duty to act which we as bishops are offering to facilitate alongside others from across civil society."

A Downing Street spokesman did not respond directly to the letter, but said: "It is absolutely right that Britain should fulfil its moral responsibility to help the refugees, just as we have done so proudly throughout our history. But in doing so, we must use our head and our heart by pursuing a comprehensive approach that tackles the causes of the problem as well as the consequences.

"The UK is the second largest donor in the world after America, helping refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Our total contribution to the Syrian crisis is more than £1.12 billion."

Additional reporting by PA

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in