Norfolk bishops call to increase Syrian refugees
Three Norfolk bishops have joined 81 others in calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to increase the number of Syrian refugees being resettled to the UK "to a minimum of 50,000" over the next five years.
The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Jonathan Meyrick, Bishop of Lynn and Rt Rev Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford, all signed the letter, sent to the Prime Minister in early September, and released publicly on October 17.
The letter says that the situation in Syria is "one of the largest refugee crises ever recorded" and the Bishops write that "a moral crisis of this magnitude calls each and all of us to play our parts." It calls directly on the Prime Minister to increase his current offer to accept 20,000 refugees over the next five years to 50,000. The Bishops write:
"We believe such is this country's great tradition of sanctuary and generosity of spirit that we could feasibly resettle at least 10,000 people a year for the next two years, rising to a minimum of 50,000 in total over the five-year period you foresaw in your announcement. Such a number would bring us into line with comparable commitments made by other countries. It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily."
In addition to "recognising and applauding" the announcements made by the Prime Minister the Bishops offer help from the Church of England in encouraging their churches to provide welcome, housing and foster care to refugees as well as to support the Government in its ongoing efforts.
In their letter, the Bishops also called for the creation of a National Welcome and Resettlement Board, mirroring the successful work of such boards created by Government in response to past refugee crises in the 1950s and 1970s. Since the writing of the letter the board has been created with the Bishop of Durham serving as co-chair of the board.
Speaking on behalf of the bishops, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham said:
"The Archbishop of York recently said that the current situation has rightly been described as a refugee crisis but it is also a time of opportunity for us as a country and for our wider continent. The opportunity before us is to rise above narrow self-interest, however defined, and to embrace the highest parts of our humanity.
“We recognise that both the Prime Minister and His Government responded to calls from the country for there to be a programme of resettlement and we are grateful to him for responding to those calls. However there is a real urgency to this issue with those increasingly being forced from their land as their homes are literally bombed into the ground.
“As the fighting intensifies, as the sheer scale of human misery becomes greater, the Government's response seems increasingly inadequate to meet the scale and severity of the problem.
“It is disheartening that we have not received any substantive reply despite an assurance from the Prime Minister that one would be received. There is an urgent and compelling moral duty to act which we as bishops are offering to facilitate alongside others from across civil society," said Bishop Paul.
Pictured above are Syrian refugees in front of Budapest railway station. Picture courtesy of Mstyslav Chernoc.