The Church of Scotland has called on the UK Government to scrap any policy that “exploits people’s fears of the outsider”.
Very Reverend Susan Brown, convener of the Faith Impact Forum, spoke out ahead of the announcement of a new Sovereign Borders Bill in the Queen’s Speech.
The proposals, set out in a consultation paper called the “New Plan for Immigration”, is expected to overhaul the asylum system in an attempt to deter migrants from crossing the Channel.
Home Secretary Priti Patel previously vowed to tackle “illegal migration head-on” and insisted the plan will be “fair but firm”.
But ahead of the speech, Dr Brown said: “Our congregations and communities across Scotland are enriched by the contribution and presence of people from all over the world, including asylum seekers and refugees.
“As a Church, we proclaim a message that ‘all are welcome’ and that it is important that those who are in a position to offer assistance and sanctuary to fellow human beings in need should do so.
“We also know that the encounter and friendship that can develop between people of different cultures, languages and backgrounds brings benefit to receiving communities as well as to New Scots.
“It is why we are urging the Government to think again and listen to asylum seekers and refugees, organisations that support them and people in receiving communities working to provide welcome and friendship.”
The Kirk also gave its backing to a new campaign called Together With Refugees, which was launched by the Asylum Reform Initiative on Monday.
Coalition partners including Asylum Matters, British Red Cross, Freedom from Torture, Refugee Action, the Scottish Refugee Council and more are calling for a reformed asylum system which is effective, fair and humane.
Dr Brown added: “It is a sad fact that in our broken world forced migration is a reality.
“UK Government ministers might wish for people to stop trying to cross the English Channel but when there is still conflict and injustice in the world then there will always be those wanting to seek sanctuary from war and suffering.
“We cannot close the door and instead we need to call out this policy for what it is – xenophobic populism which exploits people’s fears of the outsider.
“What we need is political leadership which acknowledges and allays people’s concerns and promotes the importance of human life and dignity.
“This means giving asylum seekers the right to work, ending the use of barracks and hotels for accommodation.
“Establishing safe passage routes or humanitarian corridors to the UK for those that need sanctuary, putting a time limit of 28 days for how long someone can be held in immigration detention and increasing support for individuals to alleviate destitution and poverty.”
Minister for Immigration Compliance and Justice Chris Philp said: “With each day that passes, more vulnerable people are falling prey to organised crime gangs and risk dying in the back of lorries and at sea.
“Journeys across the Channel are not only dangerous and illegal, but also unnecessary, as France is a safe country.
“We have a responsibility to put the New Plan for Immigration into action so that we can fix the broken asylum system, helping people based on need, not the ability to pay people smugglers.
“Just this month, thanks to our world-leading safe and legal routes, we have been resettling refugees from countries including Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon so that the most vulnerable people in the world can rebuild their lives in the UK.
“Our New Plan for Immigration will allow us to continue this essential work.”