A letter signed by 28 British rabbis sent to the UK home secretary expressed “deep concern and dismay” over the government’s proposed bill for asylum seekers.
The letter was released as the House of Commons debates amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill proposals, the UK Jewish News reported.
The letter’s signatories included prominent names such as the United Synagogue’s Rabbi David Mason and the Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. The letter was organized by the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE), and mailed to Home Secretary Priti Patel on Tuesday.
The letter alleged that the legislation would create a two-tier system with consequences for refugees who don’t arrive through official routes.
This “strongly negates our Jewish values of justice and fairness,” the rabbis wrote.
They called upon Patel to amend “deeply damaging plans” in the proposed law that would make it possible for offshore asylum processing. They said that this would violate the Torah edict to “welcome the stranger,” which the Torah mentions 36 times.
The proposals “will do nothing to prevent asylum seekers from being forced into undertaking such dangerous journeys, and will merely result in further misery for those in need of sanctuary,” they wrote.
Noting that there is no debate that the British asylum system is dysfunctional and in need of modernization, they urged Patel to do so in “a compassionate, workable and forward thinking manner.”
They criticized the proposed legislation for issuing more stringent sentencing guidelines that could net migrants overstaying their visas up to four years in jail.
The current maximum sentence is six months.
The Home Office has defended the changes, saying that the new rules would make it easier to deport those who are found guilty of having expired visas, as a foreign national given a sentence longer than one year can be deported.
The rabbis pleaded with Patel to shelve the bill. Instead, they asked her to increase and open new safe routes for migrants attempting to get to the UK.