LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Refugees live in a climate of “constant fear of violence and exploitation,” according to a leading English bishop.

This is Refugee Week in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Bishop John Arnold of Salford – which covers greater Manchester – issued a statement on the theme “Our Home.”

“The Global Refugee Forum estimates that there are now 130 million refugees and displaced people in our world. That is a number that is difficult even to imagine,” the bishop said.

“A refugee has no security of home, livelihood, safety, or healthcare. Refugees are deprived of their very dignity as people, as children of God, made in His image. Many live in constant fear of violence and exploitation. Child refugees are deprived of the security of a stable home and family and education,” he added.

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Arnold’s statement comes just weeks ahead of the July 4 general elections in the United Kingdom, where the treatment of asylum seekers has become a major issue.

In April, the British Parliament passed the government’s Rwanda bill sending asylum seekers arriving in the country by boat to the African country, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it is “a fundamental change in the global equation on migration.”

Thousands of people cross the English Channel every year on often flimsy boats, and dozens of them drown. Ending this pattern of migration has been a major issue for over a decade, and the Conservative Party sees the Rwanda legislation as a political win.

However, the plan is on hold until after the election, since it would likely be overturned if the Labour Party wins.

Even so, the rightwing Reform UK party – which has been gaining support from voters who usually support the ruling Conservative Party – have called for the freeze of “non-essential immigration,” and says it would “pick up illegal migrants out of boats and take them back to France.”

When the election was announced in May, the bishops’ conference issued a statement saying the UK needs both a fairer system of immigration and asylum and a secure border.

“Although we should not assume that there is a single correct way to manage migration, our immigration policy must have the person at the center,” the bishops said.

The statement said the government should do more to establish safe and legal routes for migrants to come to the UK so they “do not have to put their lives at risk by travelling here by dangerous means.”

“We must treat migrants humanely when they arrive, ensuring that they have somewhere safe to live and adequate resources on which to live. Migrants should be allowed to work as soon as is practical and should not be detained for substantial periods,” the statement said.

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In his statement for Refugee week, Arnold said Christians need to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so political leaders may confront the scandal of conflict and climate change that deprive people of their dignity.

“We need to pray for the end to hostilities and for the understanding that wars do not lead to human progress but create hatred and barriers to any form of progress,” he said.

The bishop also pointed out that caring for “our common home” will reduce the numbers of people forced into migration, stressing that we are all entrusted to be stewards of creation, called to live in fellowship with all our brothers and sisters as a global family.

“May each one of us, in whatever small ways, be instruments for building peace and well-being for all. May we help to ensure the dignity of those around us, of every person that God places in our lives, which is a fundamental truth of our Catholic Social Teaching,” he said.

Follow Charles Collins on X: @CharlesinRome