Friday, December 20, 2013

Catholic Church warns UK "demonising" immigrants

Catholic Church warns UK The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England criticised Britain's immigration restrictions on bringing in spouses from outside the EU on Monday, and warned against "demonising" migrants coming to the country.

The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols said that a rule introduced in July last year that sets an earnings threshold for Britons who want to bring a non-EU spouse to live in the country was also damaging the development of thousands of British children.

Anti-immmigration feeling has been fuelled by warnings in right-leaning media about new arrivals claiming state handouts and free healthcare and the issue is set to be a key battleground of the 2015 election.

"Demonising immigrants, who often contribute hugely to our society and wellbeing, is a dangerous path to follow," Nichols wrote in Monday's Guardian newspaper.

"There is something deeply unsavoury about the inhumanity with which immigration targets are being pursued," he added.

Under the rule on spouses, only British citizens who earn at least 18,600 pounds ($30,300) a year can sponsor their non-European's partner's visa, a threshold which is about one-third higher than the annual minimum wage.

The Home Office has said the rule is designed to prevent families establishing themselves in the UK at the taxpayer's expense.

Nichols said the policy was splitting up families and damaging the lives of the British children affected, leaving the people involved "traumatised".

Prime Minister David Cameron has made immigration policy an important plank of his government in the face of the perceived threat that the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is siphoning off support ahead of the 2015 general election.

UKIP, which campaigns for Britain to leave the EU and for a halt to "open door" immigration, made sweeping gains in local elections in May, winning almost one in four votes, mostly at the expense of Cameron's Conservatives.

Cameron said last month he plans to limit EU migrants' access to welfare in Britain, a theme echoed by Home Secretary Theresa May on Monday.

"There is a growing concern not just here in the UK but elsewhere too about the abuse of free movement, about the way in which people can move freely across Europe sometimes for access to benefits," May told the BBC.

"We here in the UK are tightening up in terms of our rules in terms of access to benefits," she added.

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