Asylum Seekers

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons am ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Ceidwadwyr, Kettering

If the Church will have discussions with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the Church’s guidance for clergy on supporting asylum seekers.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Ceidwadwyr, Lichfield

Whether the Church provides training for clergy on supporting asylum seekers wishing to convert to Christianity.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Ceidwadwyr, New Forest West

What guidance the Church issues for clergy on supporting asylum seekers wishing to convert to Christianity.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Both archbishops have offered to meet the Home Secretary, and the Church has provided advice and guidance for clergy to consider when dealing with requests for baptism from asylum seekers. The guidance refers to the need for discernment and recognises that there may be mixed motives on the part of asylum seekers requesting baptism.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Ceidwadwyr, Kettering

I welcome that meeting. Those who are genuinely seeking to convert to Christianity should of course be allowed to do so. But is my hon. Friend aware that there is growing concern in this country that the Church of England—naively at best, and deliberately at worst—is being seen to aid and abet asylum seekers in getting around the laws of this country and remaining in the United Kingdom? May I urge the Church of England to update its guidance entitled “Supporting Asylum Seekers—Guidance for Church of England Clergy” as soon as possible to ensure that it is in alignment with new legislation passed in this House?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

That guidance is being updated, so I can reassure my hon. Friend on that point. He is right that clergy will always rightly tell everyone they come across about the love of Jesus, but clergy do not determine asylum claims. Of course, priests are expected to uphold the law and make truthful representations of character. I hope that reassures him. I also note that in the recent Times investigation of 28 cases heard by the upper tribunal where a claimant cited conversion to Christianity as a reason to be granted asylum, only seven were approved, 13 were dismissed, and new hearings were ordered in eight other cases.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Ceidwadwyr, Lichfield

My hon. Friend will have heard the comments made by my hon. Friend Tim Loughton at Prime Minister’s questions. The problem is, this brings the Church of England into disrepute. It implies that some vicars are naive, foolish and innocent. It is important for the credibility of the Church of England that training is more robust and that well-meaning folk do not endanger our society.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I hear very clearly what my hon. Friend says. I know that he, like me, takes seriously the reputation of the Church of England. He cares a great deal about it, and I am grateful to him for that. I repeat the answer I gave my hon. Friend Mr Hollobone: priests are required to use discernment, to recognise that there might be mixed motives, and always to put forward truthful representations of character.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Ceidwadwyr, New Forest West

I heard the words of my hon. Friend Tim Loughton as well. When there is plenty wrong and plenty to complain about, it is not always the case that we should blame the established Church, is it?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Any institution run by humans will never be perfect, but he is right that the Church of England was unfairly accused of being involved in some cases, when it had no involvement at all.