Lucy Pawle, BBC, June 28, 2023
Some British people are only concerned about the immigration of “brown people” but would open their homes to others, a bishop has said.
The Bishop of Dover, the Right Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, said she did not hear complaints about people arriving in the UK from Ukraine or Hong Kong.
She told BBC HARDtalk that she found that “interesting”.
A government spokesman said it was “wrong to compare and set vulnerable groups against each other”.
The bishop was speaking to the BBC programme about concerns her congregants may have about small boat arrivals on the Kent coast.
Bishop Hudson-Wilkin, who was born in Jamaica and was the first black female bishop appointed by the Church of England, said some British people “do not understand their own history”.
“I love to remind the British that they were economic migrants when they went to Africa, when they went to Asia, when they travelled to the Caribbean,” she said.
“They wanted to improve their lives. That’s what these people are doing.”
She added that it was because of those global historic links that people felt “a natural affinity and connection” with the UK and wanted to come here.
Tens of thousands of people crossed the Channel on small boats in 2022, many of whom came from some of the poorest and most chaotic parts of the world.
So far in 2023, more than 8,000 have made the journey, about 2,000 less than at the same point in the previous year.
The government’s Illegal Migration Bill, which is going through Parliament, has been proposed with the aim of giving ministers the power to remove anyone arriving in the UK illegally and then bar them from claiming asylum.
Under the bill, illegal migrants would be detained and removed, either to Rwanda or another “safe country”.
Bishop Hudson-Wilkin said she was “appalled” by the government’s plans as “since time immemorial, people have moved, people have picked themselves up, picked their families up and decided [to go] where life is better”.
A government spokesperson said it was “wrong to compare and set vulnerable groups against each other”.
“The UK has a proud history of supporting those in need of protection,” they said.
“Our resettlement programmes have provided safe and legal routes to better futures for hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe.
“However, the world is facing a global migration crisis on an unprecedented scale, and change is needed to prevent vile people smugglers putting people’s lives at risk and to fix the broken global asylum system.”
They added that Rwanda was “a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers”.