Serious or sad little girl with rope

Where do Refugees go?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has recorded that over 100 million people have fled their homes because of the danger to their lives, many are separated from families and friends in the process.

90% of the world’s refugees are from countries in or close to war and conflict, like Afghanistan, Gaza, Myanmar, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Ukraine.

Around 70% of them are displaced, trapped in their own countries.

Around 90% of those who manage to get out take sanctuary in a neighbouring country.
  • People from Afghanistan go to Pakistan
  • People from Myanmar go to Bangladesh
  • People from Sudan go to Uganda and Egypt
  • People from Syria go to Lebanon

What is a refugees journey like?

Those who manage to escape and go in search of safety face horrendous hardships, dangers and obstacles, crossing the wilderness of deserts, treacherous sea waters, unscrupulous smugglers and water tight borders, and horrific sufferings.

Those who manage to cross deserts, Mediterranean Sea, many borders, then the English Channel, face what the government has called “a hostile environment”, detention and deportation, with the threat to be sent to Rwanda. The message is, “you are not welcome here”.

Deterring people coming to the UK is not going to stop people coming here for sanctuary.

Street metal pillar with various stickers one saying Refugees Welcome
What is the solution to rising immigration?

Long term, the solution lies in eradicating war, ending poverty, tackling global warming, being at ease with those who are different.

Wooden Welcome Signage

What should we be doing now on immigration?

More immediately people coming here seeking sanctuary require hospitality, not hostility.

This is the context in which we do our work of challenging hostility with hospitality, by building cultures of welcome, hospitality and sanctuary.

Migration made us who we are and defines us, migration is in our blood and bones and being

Roman Catholic Theologian Gemma Tulud, from the Philippines, makes a strong, coherent, cohesive and compassionate case for theological reflection on migration, exploring the positive dimensions of migration and migrants. Working from a theology of “one bread, one body, one people” she argues for:

social justice in immigration

What would social justice in immigration look like?

The UK approach to Borders and Nationality, and the Rwanda deportation scheme is a monstrous response to a human catastrophe. You cannot fix a “broken” system with a broken thread. Any attempt by the UK to control its border alone, as an Island, is doomed to be a failure. We need to work across borders and divides. Britain needs migrants and the skills they bring. Most UK “migrants” last year came here legitimately on work, student and holiday visas, and as refugees (eg from Ukraine). A much smaller number came through the tortuous route of the English Channel on unseaworthy vessels because there are not safe routes for people to come to the UK and apply for refugee status.

Anonymous social justice warriors with placards during manifestation on street
Stopping migration is like trying to stop glaciers melting in global warming.

There is an urgent need for global cooperation to manage the global movement of people, and immigration in the broadest understanding of its meaning.

How do we improve global cooperation to manage immigration?

  • Processes to manage not prevent immigration
  • Distinguish between people who travel on work, student and holiday visas, those who apply for refugee status, and those who come here as refugees
  • Broaden the definition of who is a refugee
  • Create safe passages for people seeking sanctuary and refugees, not reducing or shutting them
  • Support search and rescue of those in danger
  • Care and speed in asylum decision and ending detention of already hurting people
  • Establish the right for asylum seekers to work
  • Invest in instruments of peace, not war, healing not harming, mercy and compassion, not cruelty
  • Build cultures of welcome, hospitality and sanctuary

Is it possible to fix the uk immigration system?

It is possible to protect borders and provide reformed immigration and asylum policies that are based on social justice, mercy and humility. Resettlement Schemes can be expanded and enhanced with quality inclusion and integration support of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. As a member of the United Nations and a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention the UK should share the responsibility for the protection of refugees globally.

Inderjit Bhogal, 4th June 2024



Pause For Thought is featured on BBC Radio 2. It is hosted on the OJ Borg programme at 2.30am (GMT). Inderjit contributes regular short reflections on various topics, often related to spirituality, philosophy and personal experiences. Inderjit provides a moment of reflection and contemplation offering you a brief pause. Here, Inderjit shares his insights and wisdom, to inspire you, encourage you, or provide a moment of reflection before you start the day.

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