Mary and Joseph find seeking asylum in the UK is not child’s play
Published on 2 December, 2016
This Christmas time, a new Nativity video is imagining the welcome Mary and Joseph would receive if they arrived in the UK seeking asylum. As children across the country participate in their own retelling of the Christmas story, the video uses child actors to play the Holy couple negotiating the harsh realities facing those seeking refuge on our shores.
The video shows Mary and Joseph struggling to get by in temporary accommodation, while the three wise men are taken in to custody by the police before they are able to deliver their gifts.
The film is released as the latest UK Government figures, for September, show Scotland had 3,245 asylum seekers who were receiving accommodation and/or financial support of less than £6 per day.
The ‘A Very British Nativity’ video is part of a joint church campaign to challenge hostile attitudes towards asylum seekers.
Human rights and human dignity
The Church of Scotland’s Rev Dr Richard Frazer said:
“We have repeatedly called for a deeper generosity on the part of the UK Government in offering a welcome to refugees and asylum seekers. We have shown our own commitment by creating a Refugee Coordinator post to work in this area until at least 2020.
“We believe we should treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves and that human rights and human dignity are universal.
“We fear there is a ‘war against sanctuary’ which the UK Government is expressing through eroding legal rights for asylum seekers and threatening to penalise the children of people without appropriate documentation to discourage migration.”
David Bradwell, Refugee Co-ordinator for Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees said:
“Scottish communities have offered a phenomenal welcome to refugees and asylum seekers, with churches often playing a critical role at the heart of neighbourhood responses.But so often difficulties caused by the harshness of the asylum system make life miserable for people.
"This film hopefully remind those of us lucky enough to live in peace that there are others in the UK less fortunate this Christmas, and also to express a wish that there can be some reform and improvements to how the state treats asylum seekers in the New Year.”
Holy family would have been tired and sad
Martha, aged 8, who attends a Methodist Church and played Mary in the film said:
“Mary must have felt tired because she did so much walking with her suitcase and her baby. She would have been sad because she couldn’t find a home and worried about her baby. I think people should watch this film. We all need to help people who have left their home because something bad has happened.”
The film was produced by a coalition of four Church denominations in the UK: the Church of Scotland; the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.
Grace Pengelly, the film’s director and a policy adviser for the Churches, said:
“Our Churches are very concerned about the degrading treatment and challenges faced by asylum seekers in the UK.
“It is sometimes all too easy to forget that many seeking asylum have already experienced a great deal of trauma. Rather than providing the standard of care that we would wish for ourselves, many aspects of the UK’s asylum system appear to add to the suffering already endured by those seeking refuge.
"Our hope is that in seeing this film people will be more aware of how hard this Christmas will be for some of the poorest members of our society.”
Living on less than £6 a day
‘A Very British Nativity’ launches the day after the release of the Government’s quarterly migration statistics, which show that that in September in Scotland 3,245 asylum seekers received accommodation and/or financial support of less than £6 per day.
Across the UK the figures show 37,958 asylum seekers received support from the Government’s National Asylum Support Service, in September, which means they qualify for accommodation and/or financial support of less than £6 per day. The report also reveals that so far in 2016, 45% of appeals made by asylum seekers were allowed, indicating that the system currently in place is struggling to adequately assess the needs of asylum seekers.