A UK bishop spoke out on 19 October about a letter by a group of 84 Church of England bishops to British Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to increase the number of Syrian refugees the country will take in by 2020 to at least 50,000. The Right Reverend David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester, said that him and other bishops were still awaiting a full response from the prime minister, five weeks on.
"We wrote this letter about five weeks ago and since then the migrant refugee crisis has only continued to worsen. We've had the Russian bombing of parts of Syria, we've had the most recent events in Hungary and we've been under pressure from our own constituency, from charities, from Churches, in our various dioceses who are saying: 'what are you doing about it?'. So we didn't feel we could keep it secret any longer. The fact that we had made an approach offering to work with the government to help to increase the number of people that Britain can take," he said.
Under pressure from public opinion to strengthen Britain's response to the migrant crisis on Europe's borders, the government has pledged to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
"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 bishops wrote in their letter.
"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," they added.
Rt Rev Walker disagreed that the migration crisis was a matter for the political arena and not for the church. "Well these aren't political matters, these are moral matters, and these are matters about the welfare of people who are God's children and that's what we believe. It's a matter of conscience that people respond to human need that is so abject. We've got people who are largely fleeing their lives, they're fleeing from war, they're fleeing from terrorism and we have a moral duty to take those people in. Some of them, our fair share," he said.
A spokesman for Cameron's office did not respond directly to the content of the bishops' letter, but in response to a question about it said it was "absolutely right that Britain should fulfil its moral responsibility to help the refugees. But in doing so, we must use our head and our heart by pursuing a comprehensive approach that tackles the causes of the problem as well as the consequences," the spokesman said.
The bishops offered to rally congregations behind efforts to make rental properties and spare housing available to refugees, and to promote foster care for unaccompanied and homeless children.