Kirk minister tells MSPs that refugees must not be treated like commodities

The Rev Robert Calvert of Steeple Church Dundee addressed MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.

A Church of Scotland minister has warned MSPs that refugees must not be treated like "excess water or bad weather".

The Rev Robert Calvert of Steeple Church in Dundee said it was impossible to "turn off the coming and going of people who seek a better life."

He said he hoped that they would find a "home" in Scotland where they are afforded recognition and respect.

Mr Calvert was speaking in the Scottish Parliament which reconvened this week after the festive break.

He delivered the Time for Reflection slot, which heralds the start of business for the week.

This is what Mr Calvert said.

"Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to come here and wish members of the Scottish Parliament a happy new year—if it is not too late to do that.

If we learned one thing last month, it is that just a moderate increase in storm activity creates complete havoc across our land.

Storm Frank made Scotland's towns and glens into disaster sites.

The other big issue that our continent and country face is refugees and migrants. It is not a new issue and it is not likely to end. In this era of the highest human migration in history, people travel from lands that are wasted by war and climate change.

Before we returned to Scotland in 2014, my wife and I lived in Rotterdam for 19 years.

Our home was on an island in Europe's largest port city, where we were situated between Manhattan-style apartment blocks and office buildings along the River Maas. In the Netherlands they built dykes and barriers to protect the land from rising sea levels.

The Dutch are used to water problems and that is why they have some of the world's best marine engineers.

My simple point is that, even if we can control water flows, we cannot do the same with migrants. We cannot control travellers and make them a commodity.

Some social commentators speak of migration "flows" and "highways", but when we use that language we disrespect those who are most affected by this humanitarian crisis.

They must not be treated like excess water or bad weather. Being likened to traffic subtly changes migrants from humans into commodities, and when that happens we are little better than traffickers, who see those people as less than human.

We think in terms of us and them. We can turn a tap on and off but we cannot turn off the coming and going of people who seek a better life.

There is a little story in the middle of the Old Testament book of Genesis about Abraham giving hospitality to strangers. Three men arrived without warning "in the heat of the day."

It was siesta time, but the elderly couple provided water for tired feet, rest in the cool of the shade and a sumptuous feast.

The narrative ends with news of a baby that would lead to the birth of a child refugee, whom we call Jesus.

That story, which is shared by the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, tells how home is not necessarily where we are born or brought up.

Home is where we are received and welcomed and where we get recognition and respect.

May God give us Abraham's grace, so that migrants will be proud to call Scotland home."