Very few subjects are as divisive as that of asylum seekers and refugees illegally being brought into the UK usually by people smugglers who make vast fortunes from other people’s misery. These journeys can lead to death or serious injury, and the victims involved risk becoming part of the modern-day slavery situation. Many of these people travel thousands of miles, often from war-torn countries but also as economic migrants, to seek a better life in the UK where they frequently have other relatives or friends who have settled here earlier.
The media is full of stories highlighting their plight but also vociferously raises criticism, anger and outright hatred from many people who do not welcome such a vast influx of outsiders. While many people would try to be humanitarian in their outlook when seeing, hearing and reading about people in such distress, others feel that such people have no right to be landing on our shores without going through the proper procedures and, even then, would not want them to be here without being prepared to make a contribution to their own welfare and not be a drain on our society.
Some of the comments made in the media include that such people are queue-jumping over others who have applied for immigration through the proper channels; they are living a lavish lifestyle in hotels free of charge at the UK’s expense without having contributed to the cost; many are not running from war-torn countries at all but are just economic migrants; they can bring Covid and other diseases into the country; they often have large families, are increasing in number and we are in danger of them taking over; they are changing the character and culture of the UK; they have come here just to claim welfare benefits.
People also comment that Brexit was supposed to limit the number of people coming into the country; they are a drain on the National Health Service and other public services without having paid anything in; they are often involved in various types of serious crime, theft, shop-lifting, etc.; many of them are terrorists who want to endanger life or cause serious injury and destruction in the country which has given them help and support; bringing so many people from different religious backgrounds and cultures causes disharmony among the resident population and often they don’t integrate into the local culture or even learn the language; they are given preferential treatment over local housing; they could settle in other safe countries which are their first port of call nearer to their homeland rather than travel thousands of miles to reach the UK. And so it goes on….
The Government has been trying to take decisive action against illegal immigrants for many years and is now even accused of making cruel decisions to stop this illegal trade. They seem to be in a no win situation between showing compassion and caring or being seen as a ‘soft touch’ harbouring and financially supporting people who have no right to be here.
How is it possible to view the plight of asylum seekers and refugees from a Christian stand-point while recognising that illegal immigration is causing major public concerns as listed above?
Graham replies: Thank you Carol for your question as to how we should consider the plight of asylum seekers, refugees, and illegal immigration which is causing public concerns as listed above.
I think the idiom “Before you judge a man, (woman) walk a mile in his (her) shoes” will help us to form an understanding and empathy as to why people have had to leave their countries of origin and embark on lengthy and complicated journeys to find work and a new home to settle in.
In an ideal world every man, woman and child would have perfect health, wealth, shelter, work, family support and friendships. There would be no wars, conflicts, famines and disasters. There would be no religious, social and economic differences only a wonderful paradise for us all to enjoy. However one thing we are sure of is that the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and people looking for work is nothing new and will always be with us in one form or another.
In the Bible we can observe some unexpected and shocking journeys that men and women have found themselves in and apply a wisdom and practical solutions to the concerns of refugees, asylum seekers and illegal immigration.
In Genesis 2 we read of Eden, a perfect garden, where Adam and Eve lived. It was a peaceful place full of provision and guidelines as how best to live. As we are aware Adam and Eve were forced to leave that place of beauty and take up a new home full of toil and pain.
In Genesis 12: Abraham is told by the Lord to travel to a new land, not knowing where he was to go or end up. It was through him that the idea of a promised homeland for Jewish people would come into being.
In the book of Exodus we find Moses was born in Egypt to Hebrew parents and was abandoned as a baby. The Lord raised him up in a foreign land to lead the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt and spend forty years wandering in the wilderness in preparation for their new home.
God’s chosen people, Israel, were not faithful in following the Lord’s guidelines and commandments and were exiled for seventy years in Babylon. They later returned to Israel to rebuild their homes, faith and community.
In the extended Christmas story we find in Matthew 2 the account of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus fleeing persecution from King Herod to find safety in Egypt as instructed by the Angel. Jesus in his ministry knew about being rejected and persecuted for his faith and eventually crucified.
Throughout the ages many persecuted people have held on to a future hope and a restored Garden of Eden to get them through difficult situations. Such a hope is found in Revelation 22. A new garden awaits all believers and is set alongside a river that has The Tree of Life producing twelve kinds of fruit ripe for each month. The leaves of the Tree are for the healing of all peoples and nations.
At this point I think it would be helpful to try and get a measure of what Jesus would want us to do on behalf of the refugee, asylum seeker and illegal immigrant.
Jesus would refer us to Exodus 22: 21: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” and Leviticus 19: 34 “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God”.
It is important to show compassion and practical help in the Lord’s name to those whose journey and desire for work is totally devastating. In Matthew 25 Jesus speaks about feeding and welcoming the stranger. In Hebrews 13: 2 we are encouraged to show hospitality to strangers. In Galatians 3 and 5 we are asked to love our neighbours as ourselves for there is no differences for those who are one in Christ and all God’s people. In Psalm 146: The Lord watches over the refugee and those in distress.
In conclusion there is no easy answer to your difficult and complicated question Carol. However, if political, religious, social and moral governments and powers were able to work together on practical solutions then certainly the situation would be better than it is at the present time.
Manchester Refugee Support Network – Tel: 0161 868 0777
British Red Cross, Greater Manchester – Tel: 0161 888 8932 Email: GMRS@redcross.org.uk
Refugee Action, Manchester – Tel: 07753 325364
Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit – Tel: 0161 740 7722
Boaz Trust – Tel: 0161 202 1056 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Children and Families Refugee and Asylum Seeker Services (CFRASS) (Manchester City Council)
Tel: 0161 234 5001
WAST (Women Seeking Asylum Together) – Tel: 0161 464 7374
Revive – Tel: 0161 223 5668
Freedom from Torture – Tel: 0161 236 5744
Greater Manchester Law Centre – Tel: 0161 769 2244
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