Speaking at a post-plenary press conference in London on 19 November 2021, Bishop Paul McAleenan gave an update on the Bishops' work to support migrants and refugees in England and Wales.
Bishop McAleenan, Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees, spoke about four verbs, often used by Pope Francis, that help inform our work in this area: Welcome, protect, promote, and integrate.
We should think beyond ourselves, he says, and realise “that migrants and refugees have a potential which can contribute to our own culture and lifestyle, and encourage us to think more deeply about our own culture and values.”
Bishop McAleenan talked about the “route” that offers Hong Kong residents born before 1997 the chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.
“The very edifying news is many have arrived in our parishes throughout the country, have introduced themselves to priests, have sought places in Catholic schools, and are being successfully integrated.”
He also spoke about the government’s commitment to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next five years.
“The Church has got a plan to be involved in that process, similar to the Syrian Community Sponsorship programme. At the moment, what is needed is general befriending and help from those who have the ability to communicate with those from Afghanistan. As the programme is rolled out more widely across parishes, we will be asking parishes whether they can provide accommodation.
“There needs to be a co-ordinated local response so that the needs of the people are met. For example, clothing, perhaps digital technology, laptops, devices. And of course, as we learned so wonderfully thanks to Community Sponsorship Programme, what really brings people together is when neighbours introduce them to local facilities such as schools, doctors, supermarkets and so forth. That is how the Church is taking forward Pope Francis’s message of the importance not only to welcome but also to protect, to enable people to take their rightful place in society and then to integrate.”
Bishop McAleenan concluded by speaking about the Nationality and Borders Bill:
“We are encouraging our people to respond to the needs and also to reaffirm our support of the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and its advocacy as we confront the Nationality and Borders Bill as it returns to Parliament.”