World Refugee Day 2021: Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops issue Joint Statement


Ahead of World Refugee Day 2021 Bishop Robert has co-signed a Joint Statement by Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops from Dioceses on both sides of the English Channel, in which they express concern about the situation in Northern France and urge a “climate of welcome and understanding”. 

In 2020, there were approximately 80 million forcibly misplaced people globally, of whom 26.3 million people are refugees. Among these are an estimated 1500 people, including women with newborns and approximately 200 unaccompanied children, living in forests or makeshift shelters in Northern France.  The Human Rights Observers NGO who monitor found there were 973 evictions by the police in Calais in 2020 alone, not including the dismantling of hundreds of tents in Calais each month.


Photo: Seeking Sanctuary

In response to this ongoing human misery in and around Calais, surrounding ports and coastline towns running from Northern France to Belgium, where many misplaced people seek shelter, the group of Bishops have issued a Joint Statement for World Refugee Week 2021.   

This Anglican and Roman Catholic group of Bishops represent the Anglican Dioceses of Canterbury and Europe, and on the Roman Catholic side, the Archbishops of Southwark and Lille, the Bishop of Arras, Boulogne & Saint-Omer, and the Bishop of Bruges.

In their Joint Statement the Bishops state:

“These are fellow humans who deserve to be helped to find places where they can live in dignity and contribute to civil society. With sadness, we observe the lack of hope that drives people in distress to become exploited by traffickers and add to the profits of their illegal trade… their stories should be heard before decisions about their futures are announced”.

The Dioceses of Canterbury and Europe are working with USPG in a project which reflects the need for a more co-ordinated approach to care for and support migrants and their families – on both sides of the English Channel.  They are part of an effort mounted by NGOs locally, including in close collaboration with Seeking Sanctuary. Their aim to “raise awareness about the situation of people displaced from their homes and to channel basic humanitarian assistance from Faith Communities and Community Organisations through partnerships with experienced aid workers. They have "a special concern for those who arrive in north-western France, mistakenly expecting to be welcomed to the UK”.

The Bishops add in their Statement:

“We urge all who gather in places of worship along the frontiers of European states to pray and gather information to support pleas for better treatment of all vulnerable men, women and children. For ourselves, we resolve to work to encourage residents to create a climate of welcome and understanding for strangers who share in the hopes and needs of all humanity."

The partnership hopes this Joint Statement this week about the situation in Northern France and surrounding coastlines will shine a light on the plight of refugees trapped between one side of the English Channel and the other. In this predicament, many find themselves in a climate where they are being held back currently from dignity, and from having their human worth recognised.   

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has adopted "power of inclusion" as their emphasis for Refugee Week this year, reminding us that "this is a chance to recognise the contribution refugees and displaced people have made, and continue to make, to society." 


Story:  Jamie Ellis, Damian Thwaites