Vulnerable people who arrive on our shores should be treated fairly under international law, Quakers say

Quakers believe that all people are precious, everywhere. Today they speak out yet again against the UK government's plans on migration which continue to embed policies of discrimination into the practices of the British state.

Embroidered butterfly reads migration is beautiful
Vulnerable people who arrive on our shores should be treated fairly under international law, Quakers say, photo credit: Quakers in Britain

Announcing his latest plans for the asylum system, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said new legislation would make it clear that those entering the UK by unsafe and irregular routes would not be able to remain.

But the Prime Minister's plans, announced on Tuesday 13 December, criminalise those seeking sanctuary and contravene the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, of which the UK was a founding signatory.

The UK should do more to promote peace and climate justice abroad, allowing people to live safely at home, rather than being forced to take often life-threatening routes to safety, said Oliver Robertson, head of witness and worship at Quakers in Britain.


The only true security is security for all.

- Oliver Robertson


He welcomed the employment of more staff to tackle the backlog in asylum claims but called for a culture of compassion and welcoming hospitality that answers that of God in every person.

Claims should be decided correctly the first time, and staff should not make prejudiced assumptions based on where people come from, Oliver Robertson said.

Furthermore, refugees should not be housed in unsuitable accommodations such as disused holiday parks, former student halls and surplus military sites but in the community where they can integrate and access services.

Oliver Robertson said: “Quakers have worked for decades to welcome newcomers to our shores. We have watched the government's creation of a 'hostile environment' with dismay, as it has dehumanised and demonised people fleeing war and climate change.

“We bear witness to the humanity of all people and reject the culture of disbelief and discrimination within the UK immigration system. The only true security is security for all."

The UNHCR has appealed to the UK to uphold its international legal obligations. A spokesperson said: "Providing protection and sanctuary to people fleeing war and persecution remains the cornerstone of the international refugee system.

"In limiting access to asylum to those arriving through 'safe, legal routes', today's proposals go against the basic principles of international solidarity and responsibility-sharing upon which the 1951 Refugee Convention was founded. That framework endures as a lifesaving collective commitment between states."

Read UNHCR's call for the UK to stand by international legal obligations here