Archbishop Sentamu accuses EU of ‘shunting’ migrants towards UK

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu

The Archbishop of York has demanded that EU nations offer asylum to refugees in their own countries rather than “shunting” them ever more towards the UK.

John Sentamu, the second most senior member of the Church of England, blamed the existence of the Jungle camp in Calais on the Schengen zone, which allows free movement across European national borders.

He said EU nations had failed to give assistance to migrants passing through their countries and questioned how the Government could be certain that members of Islamic State were not among those seeking refuge, the Daily Mail reported.

Speaking at the Henley Literary Festival, which is sponsored by the newspaper, he said the Schengen countries should “own up” to what they have created in the migrant camp in France, which is home to around 10,000 people and from where scores of refugees try to cross to the UK every week.

Dr Sentamu, himself an asylum seeker who fled Uganda in the early 1970s, said: “I think it should be that, wherever the asylum seekers arrive in that particular place, you have a responsibility for their care, their love.

“Schengen countries have not done that with the Jungle and I, for one - as much as I am sympathetic and I feel sorry for the number of people genuinely seeking asylum - I think really the issue lies with the Schengen countries and they cannot see Britain as a soft touch.”

The Archbishop said asylum seekers were only able to move freely through Europe because of the agreement, adding: “Every nation is shunting them and shunting them and shunting them in the hope that they will end up in the UK.

“I just hope that the Schengen countries can resolve it because it is their free movement of people. Britain did not sign the Schengen Agreement.”

He also suggested Britain should police Libyan waters in the Mediterranean Sea to prevent migrant trafficking.

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said Dr Sentamu had spoken out about an “awkward truth”, adding: “The Schengen states would be wise to listen.”

Dr Sentamu’s comments come after the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this month joined cross-party calls for the Government to speed up reuniting children living in the Calais camp with their families in the UK.

The Most Rev Justin Welby warned of continual reports of delays in bringing across “really quite young children,” saying that where children have families in the UK there is “no reason” why they should not be brought across “within the day”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed a refugee family to live in a cottage in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, his London home, in July.

He said at the time: “Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings, made in the image of God, who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish.”

According to the UN’s refugee agency, more than 3,200 people have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year.

Almost 300,000 people have attempted the journey and thousands remain stranded in Greece and Italy in poor living conditions.

The Government last year agreed to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.