Author: David Carnduff
Dumbarton’s MP has hit out at the Home Office over changes to immigration rules which make it difficult for priests and religious leaders from overseas to come to the UK.
Martin Docherty-Hughes has received almost a hundred letters from local church-goers across West Dunbartonshire voicing concerns about the damaging impact of new restrictions which explicitly prevent “ministers of religion” from entering the country using a Tier 5 visa.
Parishioners from local churches, including St Patrick’s in Dumbarton and St Eunan’s in Clydebank, have expressed fears that restricting supply-placements from overseas clergy may result in local services and parish activities being scaled back.
Mr Docherty-Hughes has written to the UK government calling on the Home Office to urgently rethink its new immigration rules for religious workers – highlighting that the higher visa costs will disproportionality impact parishes from the poorest communities.
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The SNP MP has also signed two Early Day Motions (EDMS) tabled by the SNP in the House of Commons urging the UK government to put in place a fairer immigration system which better supports the work of churches across the UK.
He said: “These new visa rules will seriously limit the ability of parish priests and religious leaders to deliver services across Clydebank, Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven. It will also disproportionately impact poorer parishes that are unable to afford to afford the significantly higher visa costs – undermining longstanding relationships with clergy from overseas.
“Here we see yet another example of the UK government’s hostile approach towards immigration and how it is implementing retrograde policy changes with scant regard for the consequences.
“I would urge the Home Office to take urgent steps to review these visa restrictions and put in place a fairer system that better supports this important work.”