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Panel 1 – Protection of religious minorities, refugees, and migrants –                  setting the frame

A challenge from the Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills for the following questions:

  1. What do religious minorities, refugees and migrants have in common? What is their contribution to democracy, peace and a sustainable development?
  2. To what extent are these groups subject to enhanced hate and incitement speech?
  3. Can fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religions and belief, go hand in hand with national security?

Global reporting of hate crime and how it is recorded by police lacks consistency, especially with regard to the various distinction of ‘protected characteristics.’ So separating out Freedom of Religion and Belief from other forms of discrimination is problematic. However, we do know hate crime in general is on a steep rise, and that race, religion and migrants or refugees are at the top end of those being targeted, with crossover between them. They are targeted especially by populist or hard right groups claiming their own identities are under threat.

Protecting fundamental freedoms and the right to seek refuge from threat of life is the very thing that protects any nation’s security. We know that due to greater tightening of borders, in areas such as the Mediterranean, and building of walls, has led to increased trafficking. The harder we make that journey for refugees, the more traffickers profit. When people are desperate to save their lives, they will use any means possible, regular or irregular. If we regularise that movement we have the most effective means of knowing who is crossing a border and of ending the profit and violence traffickers are after. Allow people to cross borders to claim asylum, let them buy ferry tickets.

Right now, the EU & UK are paying for detention centres, in the name of humanitarianism, in Libya and Morocco where unaccompanied minors and families with children are imprisoned and subject to slavery and torture – all in the name of saving them from drowning. We have built walls in Europe. The UK paid for a wall in Calais where French police are paid by the UK to harass unaccompanied minors, families with small children, and adults – take away tents and sleeping bags, slash shoed, destroy phones and essential documents.

This is unacceptable. We should instead by paying for hostels and support. There is fear over a pull factor, but no recognition of the push factor we have fostered. Hostility breeds further hostility. And that increase in hostility is a serious concern for national security and the rise of national populism.

But kindness breeds further kindness and gratitude, and a will to contribute to the nations which have provided a welcome. Kindness comes from a position of strength, and hostility from fear and hatred. The stronger nation is the on which demonstrates kindness.