Faith leaders urge new Prime Minister to offer more refugees sanctuary

Quakers are among more than 100 signatories to an open letter to the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to make a lasting commitment to welcome refugees.

People crowded into a small boat on the sea. Some people swimming around it
The UK can and must resettle more refugees. Photo: Marienna Pope-Weidemann (Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

They state that the UK can and should accept at least 10,000 refugees each year, including at least 1,000 vulnerable and unaccompanied children from conflict zones and Europe.

The signatories are from all faiths and include 33 rabbis, twenty Church of England bishops, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and a dozen Quakers.

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain, signed the letter. He said, "Quakers in Britain urge the prime minister to show compassionate leadership in welcoming refugees, especially vulnerable and unaccompanied children. Quakers say that each one is a precious life, worthy of dignity and sanctuary."

The open letter is open for signatories on the Safe Passage website.

Text of the letter

The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Dear Prime Minister,

As you will be aware, on 17 June 2019 the Home Secretary announced that the UK will welcome up to 5,000 refugees in 2020-2021, following the expiration of the current resettlement programmes. Thousands more refugees will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety in the UK, a country with a long history of offering sanctuary to those in need.

This is a welcome development and one on which the government should be congratulated. In particular, the decision to broaden the geographical focus of resettlement beyond the Middle East and North Africa will enable the UK to respond to where there is the greatest need globally, which we hope will offer a lifeline to unaccompanied children currently surviving in camps and on the streets in Europe.

Ambitious and effective programmes for resettlement to the UK offer a life-saving alternative to incredibly dangerous journeys in the hands of smugglers or traffickers. This country should be proud to give people a route to safety that stops them risking their lives in overcrowded dinghies, or in wheel arches, or in refrigerated lorries.

Thus, we are writing to ask for your assurance that as Prime Minister you will ensure this recent announcement is not a one-off, but rather the start of a lasting commitment by the UK to welcome its share of people seeking sanctuary globally.

We believe that the UK can and must resettle more refugees. The Refugee Council, British Red Cross and others recently called for resettlement to be expanded to at least 10,000 refugees each year. Meanwhile Safe Passage International have been campaigning for the UK to welcome at least 1,000 children annually from Europe and conflict zones, and have already secured pledges from local authorities amounting to nearly 1,300 places if the government makes a commitment to child refugees.

10,000 people a year, including at least 1,000 vulnerable and unaccompanied children from conflict zones and Europe. As one of the world's richest countries, seeking to build and demonstrate global cooperation and goodwill, this is a small ask of the UK.

To put this into perspective: in 2017 just 0.02% of the world's displaced people were refugees in the UK. In that same year nearly 31,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Europe and the government agreed to resettle 480 - or 1.5% - of those children. In the first 2 years of the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme, just 20 unaccompanied children were brought to the UK. We can do better.

Today, there are families living in refugee camps who may be there for generations. There are people in conflict zones whose lives are in constant danger. There are children surviving in carparks and on the side of motorways in Europe; preyed on by traffickers and others who seek to do them harm. These are people who deserve a chance to rebuild their lives and to become part of British society, like so many refugees have before them.

The success of existing UK resettlement programmes, community sponsorship and the pledges by local authorities to take more children demonstrates that communities up and down the country are open to welcoming refugees. We urge you to celebrate these achievements and establish a truly world-leading resettlement commitment.

Refugee resettlement programmes can flourish when there is political will and may flounder if that will is lacking. As our new Prime Minister, we ask you to show the compassionate leadership this issue deserves.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Sakkeer Ahamed, Chairman, Wiltshire Islamic Cultural centre

The Rt Revd Geoff Annas, Bishop of Stafford

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Manchester Reform Synagogue

The Rt Revd Richard Atkinson OBE, Bishop of Bedford

Christine Bainbridge, Thaxted Quakers Area Meeting

Dr Tirupattur Mohamed Basheer, Chairman, Dorchester Islamic Centre

The Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal OBE, Former President of the Methodist Conference

Rabbi Rebecca Birk, The Finchley Progresive Synagogue

Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts

The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden

Rosie Budd, Quakers in Kent

The Revd David Butterworth MA, Methodist Church Minister, Birmingham District Officer

The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon

Major Nick Coke, Refugee Response Co-ordinator, The Salvation Army United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland.

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland

The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelsmford

Ms Claire Crowley, Ecumenical Officer for Churches Together South London

Sheikh Imtiyaz Damiel, CEO & Founder of Abu Hanifah Foundation

Rabbi Janet Darley, Liberal Judaism

The Most Revd John D E Davies, Archbishop of Wales, Archesgob Cymru

Malcom M Deboo, President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe

The Revd Duncan Dormor, General Secretary, United Society Partners in the Gospel

The Revd Clare Downing, United Reformed Church, Wessex Synod Moderator

Bishop Philip Egan, Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth

The Revd Jacky Embrey, Moderator of the United Reformed Church's Mersey Synod

Mr Derek Estill, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church

The Revd Steve Faber, Moderator, West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church

The Rt Revd Colin Fletecher, Bishop of Dorchester

Rabbi Paul Freedman, Senior Rabbi, Radlett Reform Synagogue

Rabbi Helen Freeman

Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)

The Revd Nicola Furley-Smith, Secretary for Ministries, United Reformed Church

Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference

Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE

Rabbi Jeremy Gordon, New London Synagogue (Masorti)

The Rt Revd Karan Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne

The Revd Gary Gotham, Chair of Wiltshire United Area (Methodist and United Reformed Churches)

The Venerable Olivia Graham, Archdeacon of Berkshire

The Rt Revd Clive Gregory, Bishop of Wolverhampton

Ms Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, Director, Council of Christians and Jews

The Venerable John Hawkins, Archdeacon of Hampstead

The Revd John Hellyer, District Chair, The Methodist Church South East District

The Rt Revd Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking

Rabbi Dr Michael Hilton, Leo Baeck College

The Rt Revd John Holbrook, Bishop of Brixworth

The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury

The Rt Revd Dr Robert Innes, Diocesan Bishop, Diocese in Europe

The Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield

Mr Shazuli Iqbal, Trustee, Wiltshire Racial Equality Council

The Rt Revd Richard Jackson, Bishop of Lewes

Rabbi Richard Jacobi

Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue

Tess James, Area Quaker Meeting Clerk, Dorset and South Wiltshire

Senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Movement for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, Principal, Leo Baeck College

Mr Rajnish Kashyap MCICM, General Secretary/Director, Hindu Council UK

Dr Ed Kessler, Founder and Director of the Woolf Institute

Mr Harun Rashid Khan, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain

Jason Kilburn Evans, Quaker Chaplain

Martin Kunz FRSA, Quakers

Rabbi Sandra Kviat, Communities Partnership Rabbi, Liberal Judaism

Anthea Lee, Stansted Quakers

Prof Clive Marsh, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference

Rabbi David Mason, Executive Member Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue

Rabbi Monique Mayer, Bristol & West Progressive Jewish Congregation

Rabbi Warren Elf MBE, Director, Faith Network for Manchester

Sara Jane Mitchell, Stansted Quakers

Rabbi David Mitchell, West London Synagogue

Susan Moloney, Stansted Quakers

The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro

Mr Fiyaz Mughal OBE FCMI, Founder and Director, Faith Matters

Munisha, Member of the Triratna Buddist Order

The Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle

Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, Emeritus Rabbi Finchley Reform Synagogue

The Revd Dr Colin Norris - Regional Minister/Team Leader, Southern Counties Baptist Association

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain

Gill Parker, Saffron Walden Quakers

Rabbi René Pfertzel, Kingston Liberal Synagogue

Imam Razawi, Chief Imam of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society

Rabbi Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi & Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism

Oliver Robertson, Head of Work and Witness, Quaker Peace & Social Witness

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield

Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, ex-Chair, Assembly of Rabbis

Mr Greg Rubins, Chair, Bournemouth Jewish Representative Council

Ms Farzana Saker, Chair of West Wiltshire Interfaith Forum

Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky, Chair, Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors UK

Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, West London Synagogue

Mr Jasvir Singh OBE, Founding Chair, City Sikhs

The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, Lord Bishop of St Albans

The Most Revd Dr Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church

The Revd Dr C. A. Strine, Senior Lecturer in Ancient Near Eastern History & Literature, Sheffield University

The Rt Revd John Stroyan, Bishop of Warwick

Rabbi Larry Tabick

Rabbi Jackie Tabick

Rabbi Roni Tabick, New Stoke Newington Shul

The Revd Kerry Tankard, Chair of the Methodist Church, Yorkshire West

The Revd Richard J Teal, Chair of the Cumbria Methodist District and President designate of the Methodist Conference

Rabbi Daniela Thau

The Rt Revd Dr John Thomson, Bishop of Selby

Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue

The Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington

The Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church

Rabbi Kath Vardi, North West Surrey Synagogue

Brigid Vousden, Saffron Walden Quakers

The Revd Simon Walkling, Moderator of the United Redformed Church, National Synod of Wales

The Revd Dr Roger Walton, President of the Methodist Conference 2016/17

The Revd Kevin Watson, Moderator of the Yorkshire Synod of the United Reformed Church

Cannon John Webb, Dean of Dorset

Bernard Wilston, Canterbury Society of Friends (Quakers)

Janet Walston, Canterbury Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Rt Revd Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi at the New North London Synagogue

Reverend Canon Dr Andrew Wood, District Chair, The Methodist Church Southampton

Terry Wood, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Canterbury

Rabbi Alexandra Wright, Liberal Judaism Synagogue

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, Community Educator Movement for Reform Judaism

The Rt Revd Dr Karole i Dorgu, Bishop of Woolwich

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