Leaders from Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths have joined forces to voice their opposition to the Illegal Migration Bill in a video co-ordinated by Together With Refugees and launched today at the start of Refugee Week 2023.

Those taking part include the Right Reverend Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford and member of the House of Lords, Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen from Manchester Reform Synagogue, and Imam Dr Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi Chief Imam of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society in the United Kingdom.

Right Reverend Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, who arrived in the UK at 14 years old as a refugee from Iran, said: “This bill would allow the UK to turn its back on people in desperate need – denying safety to those who are vulnerable.  Instead it would lock up people who have fled terrible circumstances in fear for their lives.  I arrived in this country aged 14 and was given protection and welcome. But the proposals in this bill would mean detaining children who need help behind bars.  I am proud to join with other faith leaders to stand with refugees against this bill.  It does not represent who we are as faith leaders or as a nation.”

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Manchester Reform Synagogue, said: “My very existence is owed to countries who understood their duty to welcome in refugees. My religion repeatedly reminds me that it is because we have had to wander that, in turn, our responsibility is to others who are fleeing from harm now. Judaism demands that we fight for justice and it’s clear that the Illegal Migration Bill is far from just or responsible.” 

Imam Dr Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, Chief Imam of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, said: “Any policy must recognise human dignity and compassion as underlining core principles. A compassionate policy can still secure our borders and prevent dangerous crossings, and at the same time taking into consideration the most vulnerable.”

The 14 contributors to the film state: “As people of faith, we strive to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality, to love, protect, listen, learn, and show compassion. This is who we are. 

“Across the UK, now and throughout history, individuals and communities of faith have welcomed refugees into their homes and lives. When people travel across borders because they are fleeing war, persecution or oppression, we are ready to play our part. But the Illegal Migration Bill will deny people desperately seeking safety in the UK the right to community, peace, compassion and security. It will ban people from getting the protection they need, punish them for seeking sanctuary, and separate families. Instead of hospitality, it treats people with hostility, discrimination and distrust.  

“We believe in a different approach. We believe in a fair and just asylum system that welcomes those who need protection and respects their dignity. We call on the government to listen to communities who say this bill does not reflect what we want our country to be.  As people of faith, we will stand together with refugees, because it’s who we are.”

The Illegal Migration Bill is currently making its way through Parliament.  It would mean that anyone, including children, who arrives in the UK via an irregular route, such as a small boat across the Channel, would never be able to claim asylum here even if they have had to flee their home country due to persecution or conflict. The UNHCR has said that the bill “would amount to an asylum ban” as it would extinguish “the right to seek refugee protection in the United Kingdom for those who arrive irregularly, no matter how compelling their claim may be”.  It also includes extensive powers to detain people, including children, with no time limits.