Churches Back Call to End Detention of Child Asylum Seekers

LONDON – The Catholic Church is the latest organization to come out in support of a campaign to end the detention of families seeking sanctuary in Britain.

It follows in the footsteps of other major denominations in backing the Citizens for Sanctuary pledge.

The pledge warns that Britain's history of providing sanctuary to people in difficulty is being threatened by the rise of extremist politics, "media scare stories" and Home Office failings.

It asks politicians to support policies aimed at ending the detention of children and families for immigration reasons, and not to "demean" those seeking sanctuary in Britain.

Politicians are urged to preserve the UK's legacy of providing refuge for victims of persecution and promote a "culture of sanctuary" by helping the public to understand why it is important to offer a safe haven.

Catholic Bishop for Migrants Patrick Lynch urged politicians to back the pledge.

"The Church has repeatedly taken up an advocacy role in the defense of human rights and dignity," he said. "It has enhanced its commitment on behalf of vulnerable migrants, especially women and minors and will continue to develop and increase its cooperation with governments, civil society and local authorities in responding to the needs of migrants and advocating for their dignity and rights."

The pledge has already been signed by the Church of England, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and The Salvation Army.

The Rev. John Marsh, moderator of the United Reformed Church, said signing the pledge would show that political candidates were serious about offering sanctuary to those who cannot find safety in their homelands.

"As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and the Citizens for Sanctuary campaign encourages us to do just that," Marsh said.

The general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, recently said he was concerned about the effect of detention on children and young people in particular.

"There is overwhelming evidence that holding children in detention centers is damaging to their physical and emotional well-being," he said.

"Children are particularly vulnerable, and no matter where they are from, we all have a duty to protect them from harm."