Quakers call on government to stop demonising asylum seekers

The government must recognise that of God in everyone, Quakers said this week as the 'hostile environment' towards those who seek our help continued to bear its dreadful fruit.

small boat full of people
The government must recognise that of God in everyone, Quakers say as the 'hostile environment' continues to bear its dreadful fruit, photo credit: Gerd Altmann for Pixabay.

At least six people drowned in the Channel on Saturday night when the small boat they were travelling in capsized and sank.

And 39 people were removed from asylum barge Bibby Stockholm on Monday when legionella was found in its water supply.

The asylum seekers had been boarded a week earlier even though contractor Landry & Kling allegedly knew the deadly bacteria was present.

“The combined effect of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and the Illegal Migration Act of 2023 has been to dehumanise and demonise the vast majority of asylum seekers," said the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN).

“The use of barges to 'warehouse' new arrivals is the latest expression of this de-humanisation," they added.

Six years ago, Quakers in Britain's Sanctuary Everywhere Manifesto warned that government policies to criminalise entry into a country causes harm and deliberately increases human insecurity".

Since then, the hostile environment has ratcheted up to the point where asylum seekers drown, face forced removal to Rwanda or are placed on barges unfit for human habitation.

As the Home Office recruits personnel to work at its immigration removal centres (IRCs), Quakers are involved in campaigns to prevent the planned (re)opening of two IRCs in England, Haslar and Campsfield.

QARN urged the government to reconsider its asylum policy.

“We call upon our government to turn aside from this trajectory and to recognise that there is that of God in all human beings and that this must be reflected in the way we treat them, especially when they throw themselves upon our mercy in their time of desperate need," they said.

The Sanctuary Everywhere Manifesto encourages the use of 'new, peaceful, safer routes of migration'. The use of these, including the introduction of humanitarian visas and improved rules for family reunion, would counteract the model of people smugglers.

Read the Sanctuary Everywhere manifesto here