I read recently a shocking report of a woman who was deported from the UK, after losing her indefinite leave to remain. The authorities were widely, and in my view rightly, condemned for their lack of compassion. This woman, Irene, had first arrived in this country in 1988. Two years later she married her British husband John. The couple settled in County Durham, and had two children together. Irene is now a grandmother as well. She lost her indefinite right to remain after spending time in Singapore, looking after her dying parents. And it was to Singapore that she was deported (after a month in an immigration removal centre), with £12 in her pocket, no luggage, and having had no opportunity even to say goodbye to her family here.
What’s more, such cases are evidently becoming more common. At the same time, this country has been reneging on agreements for accepting refugees, including child refugees. Where is the compassion? Where is the care for the vulnerable?
The Bible is full of exhortations to welcome, care for, and protect immigrants and refugees (or “aliens” as they are referred to in some ancient texts).
To take a few examples:
- ‘When aliens live with you in your land, do not ill-treat them. The alien living with you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt’ (Leviticus 19:34);
- ‘Extend hospitality to strangers’ (Romans 12:13);
- and the words of Jesus himself: ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40).
I believe we’re failing badly these days in our duty to offer refuge and support to many in need. I believe we must make our voices heard about how we should treat “outsiders” and those in need. Our Lord calls us to do so.