‘Britain must do more to welcome refugees’ – Catholic leader

Cardinal Vincent Gerald Nichols of Britain walks during a mass led by Pope Francis in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican February 23, 2014. © Max Rossi
Catholic leader Cardinal Vincent Nichols has urged Britain and the rest of Europe to do more to welcome refugees.

In recent months, thousands of refugees have fled war-torn countries such as Syria in an effort to live a better life in Europe.

In response to the crisis, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the UK would take up to 20,000 refugees from camps on the borders of Syria over the next five years.

‘So much more needs to be done’ 

Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, said he has acknowledged the government’s initiative to bring Syrian refugees to the UK, but added “so much more needs to be done.”

When addressing MPs and representatives from Catholic charities at a Caritas Social Action (CSAN) parliamentary reception on Wednesday, Nichols said: “Progress is slow, but the plight of refugees cannot wait. People’s generosity, in my view, far outstrips the response of our government.”

So much more needs to be done both in welcoming refugees here and across Europe to make the response to this crisis both better organized and monitored, thereby becoming more respectful of the dignity of those seeking help,” he told MPs.

As a member of the EU we should be playing our full part in this effort in Europe.”

Describing the conditions of refugee camps in Calais, Nichols said they are “dehumanizing those living there and rob them of their dignity.”

‘Catholic charities have responded with generosity’ 

The archbishop also said Catholic charities are working hard to respond to the crisis.

In our Catholic parishes all across the UK, and in other church communities and more generally, people have responded with enormous generosity. Pope Francis’s call to offer assistance and shelter to a migrant family has found an echo in many hearts.

According to the EU border control agency, a record 710,000 migrants have reached European shores by boat since the beginning of 2015, while another 3,000 died at sea.

Furthermore, the large number of migrants arriving in Europe as winter approaches raises fears of a new humanitarian crisis.

More migrants are likely to fall severely ill or die as some of them will have never experienced a European winter.

‘Britain will help refugees’ 

Speaking shortly after 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body was found washed ashore on the coast of Bodrum, Cameron said Britain has been “deeply moved” by the refugee crisis.

It is absolutely right that Britain should fulfill its moral responsibility to help those refugees just as we have done so proudly throughout our history,” Cameron said.

But in doing so we must use our head and our heart by pursuing a comprehensive approach that tackles the causes of the problem as well as the consequences.