Archbishop of Canterbury says migration fears are valid

11th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the leader of the world's Anglicans, said Friday that people were entitled to fear the impact of mass migration, in his first intervention in Britain's EU referendum debate.

As the European Union struggles to deal with the arrival of an influx of people fleeing war in Syria and upheaval across the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Welby said there was a "genuine fear" about the impact on housing, employment and public services.

"There is a tendency to say 'those people are racist', which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous," he said in an interview with The House magazine.

"Fear is a valid emotion at a time of such colossal crisis. This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable."

His comments were welcomed by campaigners pushing for Britain to leave the EU in the referendum on June 23, who argue that migration from within the bloc is a burden on communities that can only be lifted by a so-called Brexit.

However, the archbishop also said that local communities had "demonstrated an enormous capacity" to deal with migration, and argued that the current crisis needed an EU-wide solution.

"A problem of this scale can only be dealt with by a response on an equally grand scale right across Europe, and we have to play our part," he said.

Welby also warned that the Leave campaign must spell out what Britain would look like outside the EU -- an argument that Prime Minister David Cameron has made in his efforts to persuade voters to remain in the bloc.

"I don't think there is one correct Christian view, one way or the other," the archbishop said.

He added: "What would Britain look like, having left? What would be its attitude internationally? What would be its values? What are the points of excitement, of contributing to human flourishing? How does that liberate the best that is within us?

"And from those who want to stay, how would we change the European Union? How would we make it more effective if we remained in it? What's our vision?"

Welby said Britain was doing "extraordinary" work in the camps surrounding Syria and Iraq but repeated his criticism of its offer to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020, saying Germany's efforts made this proposal seem "very thin".

© 2016 AFP

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