Sunday, February 25, 2024

Church of England reviews guidance for clergy on supporting asylum seekers

Fury at Church of England as role in Asylum merry-go-round revealed |  Politics | News |

A review into guidance for clergy on supporting asylum seekers is under way as a matter of urgency, the Church of England’s parliament has heard alongside a claim of “buck-passing” between the government and the church.

The church has recently faced scrutiny from politicians over asylum seekers’ conversions to Christianity. 

One Conservative MP even suggested taxpayers are being “scammed” by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on the issue.

The former minister Tim Loughton told prime minister’s questions earlier this month: “Christianity in the UK seems to be on the wane unless apparently, you are from a Muslim country in the middle of an asylum claim.”

Welby said it was “disappointing to see the mischaracterisation of the role of churches and faith groups in the asylum system”, prompted by the case of Clapham chemical attack suspect Abdul Ezedi.

Ezedi is believed to have been supported in his UK asylum claim by someone from a Baptist church rather than the Church of England, but the case has sparked debate on the overall issue of the involvement of faith leaders in conversions and asylum applications.

The Church of England has repeatedly said it is the duty of the Home Office rather than churches to make decisions on asylum applications.

During General Synod questions on Saturday, Mark Sheardconfirmed on behalf of the archbishops’ council that the 2017 guidance document, Supporting Asylum Seekers – Guidance for Church of England Clergy, was being reviewed.

He told synod: “It is a matter of urgency.”

He also said, however, that no one should “get in the way of this country providing safety for those whose lives are at risk because of their religious belief, nor must we in any way hinder the work of creating and baptising disciples”.

Synod member Prof Roy Faulkner asked what proportion of recent new disciples had been recruited from immigrant communities on the basis of conversion from Islam to Christianity and were able to stay in the UK because of that conversion.

In a written answer, Carl Hughes, on behalf of the archbishops’ council, said: “We do not monitor the ethnic or legal background of new disciples.”

Faulkner told the synod: “I just feel that, as a result of this issue, there seems to be a certain amount of buck-passing going on between the Home Office and the Church of England.”

He suggested there must be more “connectivity between the Church of England and the Home Office in cases where they suspect confusion of compassion with naivety”.

The former immigration minister Robert Jenrick has previously spoken of conversions “aided and abetted by often well-meaning but naive vicars and priests”, and the former home secretary Suella Braverman said during her time in office that she “became aware of churches around the country facilitating industrial-scale, bogus asylum claims”.