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UK Immigration: Are Christians Second-Class Citizens?

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Roger Kiska comments on the systematic rejection of visa applications for Christians seeking to study in theological institutions or who are seeking refuge from war-torn countries.


Home office treatment of Christians

Best-selling author Douglas Murray recently wrote an opinion piece on European immigration questioning the Home Office’s treatment of Christians. In the article he highlights the very sad fact that the Institute of St Anselm,  a Catholic training institute for priests and nuns based in Kent, had to close its doors because of problems it had getting the Home Office to grant visa applications for foreign students. He also relayed several stories of what seems to be a systematic rejection of visa applications for Christian clergy men and women from Iraq and Syria for seemingly frivolous reasons, juxtaposing their treatment against that of Ahmed Hassan, who entered the UK illegally in 2015 and later detonated a bucket bomb on a busy train line on the London Underground in September.

The Home Office has revealed that between 7 September 2015 and 30 September 2016, 98% of Syrian refugees resettled within the United Kingdom were Muslim. This was despite the fact that the Syrian population is 10% Christian and that Christians were disproportionately targeted by ISIS during the insurgency.


Not the only case

Murray’s article reflects a wider perspective that we have seen. The Christian Legal Centre has itself worked first-hand with two prominent Christian ministries who have been crippled because they have had their visa issuing privileges revoked by United Kingdom Visa and Immigration [UKVI]. The similarities between those Christians denied entrance into the UK in Murray’s opinion piece, and the stories of those we have supported, are striking. For example, blanket rejections from UKVI with no right of appeal; and punishments based on technicalities largely out of the hands of the Christians involved, including not having bank accounts despite it otherwise being impossible for those individuals to obtain bank accounts.

In the cases we have worked on directly, as well as those which we are aware of anecdotally, what has been clear is that Christian ministries providing invaluable outreach to segments of the UK population in need, are being targeted and punished despite their best intentions to follow the letter of the law in relation to issuing visas. Part of the problem has been a fundamental inability on the part of UKVI to understand what it is to be a Christian or the Christian meaning of serving others. Christian ministries in their dealings with UKVI have been treated with suspicion and I would suggest a lack of due process. The result has been that the lives of everyone involved in these ministries has been irreparably affected, whether it be those religious workers who were issued deportation orders because of the overzealous actions of UKVI, or the ministries themselves who are now rendered incapable of providing the same spectrum of services to the communities they are providing charitable endeavours towards.


Tip of the iceberg

Mr Murray mentions the Institute of St Anselm specifically in his article. However, they are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If this trend continues, many more worthy ministries, big and small, will be forced to close their doors as well. We lament those mentioned in Douglas Murray’s article, who have become victims not only of a terrible war waged by ISIS, but also of a cold and overly bureaucratic Home Office. At the same time, we offer a warning that if something is not done soon, many more Christian ministries will suffer the same fate of the Institute of St Anselm.

 

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