Eighty-four Church of England bishops have accused UK Prime Minister David Cameron of ignoring their offers to provide housing and support to thousands of refugees, amid the migrant crisis gripping Europe. In an open letter published in the Observer, the bishops urged the government to make a "meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily".
They call on the prime minister to increase the number of refugees the UK will accept from 20,000 to 50,000 over the next five years. They also offer to provide the required support themselves to the increased number of refugees.
"We believe such is this country's great tradition of sanctuary and generosity of spirit that we could feasibly resettle at least 10,000 people a year for the next two years, rising to a minimum of 50,000 in total over the five-year period you foresaw in your announcement," the letter says. "Such a number would bring us into line with comparable commitments made by other countries. It would be a meaningful and substantial response to the scale of human suffering we see daily," it added.
Accompanying the letter that was released after they did not receive a satisfactory response from the government, the bishop of Durham Paul Butler issued a statement making public his frustration. According to the Observer, he describes the government's policy response as "increasingly inadequate" and criticises the prime minister of failing to respond to their suggestions with more than a "cursory acknowledgment".
"It is disheartening that we have not received any substantive reply despite an assurance from the prime minister that one would be received," Butler said. "There is an urgent and compelling moral duty to act, which we as bishops are offering to facilitate alongside others from across civil society."
"There is a real urgency to this issue with those increasingly being forced from their land as their homes are literally bombed into the ground," he adds. "As the fighting intensifies, as the sheer scale of human misery becomes greater, the government's response seems increasingly inadequate to meet the scale and severity of the problem."
The row threatens to tarnish the relationship between number 10 and the Church of England. Although the PM has not responded to the claims directly, a spokesman for Downing Street said: "We have announced that the UK will resettle an additional 20,000 Syrian refugees over the course of this parliament.
"The UK is the second largest donor in the world after America," he added, "helping refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Our total contribution to the Syrian crisis is more than £1.12 billion."
The news comes as thousands of migrants have entered Slovenia from Croatia, after Hungary shut its border with its neighbour by building a razor wire fence.