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Justice & Peace

 

BRITAIN

Columban

Missionaries

Frs. Peter Hughes, Frank Nally, Adh O’Brian and Parig Digan and Lay Missionaries Demonstrating on behalf of the migrants in Britain

Columbans at Westminster Migrant Mass

 

Paul Donovan

 

Columbans were well represented at the annual Migrants Mass at Westminster Cathedral on 4 May 2009. Concern for migrants is a Columban priority internationally. After the mass, they joined a rally in Trafalgar Square calling for citizenship rights for those who have been in Britain for a substantial period.

 

At the mass, Bishop Patrick Lynch of Southwark declared that the Catholic Church will stand with migrant workers should there be any efforts to scapegoat them during economic hard times. Delivering the homily to a packed Westminster Cathedral, Migration Bishop Lynch said: “At time of recession we as Church must do all we can not to allow migrant workers from within or outside the European Union to become scapegoats”.

 

The Southwark Auxiliary Bishop paid tribute to the contributions made to this country by past migrants coming to settle here. He recalled how migrant workers from Ireland had in the past come to work in the docks of London and Liverpool as well as in the car industry. “Today migrant workers come to work in cleaning, fishing and food processing industries,” said Bishop Lynch, who paid tribute to the contribution that such workers had made “spiritually and socially” to the Church. “The Catholic Church has a tradition of standing with workers and particularly migrant workers.”

 

The bishop called for decent living wages and housing for everyone. “Everyone deserves to live in adequate accommodation, not four to a room or 25 to a house,” said Bishop Lynch.  He called for all undocumented workers who had lived in the UK for five years or more to be given full citizenship rights. “If people have lived here, brought up their children here and worked here a way must be found to citizenship,” said Bishop Lynch.

 

Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood claimed that “for the Government to choose to do nothing about regularisation of undocumented workers is irresponsible”. This approach has led to 100,000s living in a state of exploitation, fear and limbo, said Bishop McMahon, who paid tribute to the undisputable contribution that migrant workers have made to life in the UK.

 

Refugees and asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable.  The number of asylum applications lodged in the UK peaked at over 84,000 for 2005.  Since then, the number of successful applications has fallen steadily, due to much stricter immigration legislation.  The UK's treatment of asylum seekers falls "seriously below" the standards of a civilised society, the Independent Asylum Commission said in March 2008.   Policies which threaten destitution to try to force some asylum seekers to leave the UK are a matter of grave concern.