Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu has strongly criticised Phil Woolas for his attack last week on asylum lawyers and asylum charities. There’s good coverage on the BBC website and there was pre-coverage in the Telegraph too.
I thought Woolas’s comments were disgraceful and ignorant. I launched into a little rant at the time. On reflection, I may not have been sufficiently harsh or gone into enough detail. As an asylum lawyer myself I am not well placed to defend my kind — it is too personal — but when I think of the work done by the churches, community groups and other charities assisting asylum seekers I get more and more despondent that Woolas holds public office at all.
The Government has a deliberate policy of destitution (see reports by IAC and Refugee Council if interested) by which they hope to force asylum seekers to leave the country if their claims fail. There is often no attempt to remove them, and the asylum seekers often come from countries to which it is impossible to travel or to which the asylum seeker cannot for logistical reasons return, for example because they cannot prove they are originally from that country. It is only the asylum charities that stand between an asylum seeker and full-on destitution: sleeping on the streets with no food. While some might not like asylum seekers, criticising the charities that help them seems bizarrely misguided.
Good on Sentamu for being the voice of old fashioned British decency again.