Archbishop of Canterbury: Concern about migration is not racist

Posted On: 
10th March 2016
The Archbishop of Canterbury has said it is "absolutely outrageous" to accuse people with concerns about mass migration of being racist.

Justin Welby said it was "very reasonable​" to be concerned about the stress it could place on public services in hard-pressed communities across the UK.

His comments come as tens of thousands of asylum seekers continue to flood into Europe from north Africa and the Middle East.

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Mr Welby said: "Fear is a valid emotion at a time of such colossal crisis​. This is one of the greatest movements of people in human history. Just enormous. And to be anxious about that is very reasonable. 

"There is a tendency to say ‘those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.

"In fragile communities particularly – and I’ve worked in many areas with very fragile communities over my time as a clergyman – there is a genuine fear: what happens about housing? What happens about jobs? What happens about access to health services?

"There is a genuine fear. And it is really important that that fear is listened to and addressed. There have to be resources put in place that address those fears."

PROJECT FEAR

The Archbishop also weighed into the EU debate for the first time by insisting "fear" should play a part in the referendum campaign.

David Cameron and others in the pro-EU camp have been accused of running a 'Project Fear' campaign to scare voters into rejecting Brexit.

But Mr Welby said: "It should be about what we fear. Fear is a valid emotion. Fear of what happens if we leave, fear of what happens if we stay. You can understand why that really matters. Fear is legitimate."

He made his first intervention in the heated referendum campaign in an interview with The House magazine .

The Church of England's top clergyman added: "My hope and prayer is that we have a really visionary debate about what our country looks like.

“From those who want to leave; what would it look like? What would Britain look like, having left? What would be its attitude internationally? What would be its values? What are the points of excitement, of contributing to human flourishing? How does that liberate the best that is within us? 

“And from those who want to stay, how would we change the European Union? How would we make it more effective if we remained in it? What’s our vision?”

"It mustn’t all be about us. It’s got to be about us, but about what we do in the world. This country has this extraordinary history, going back hundreds of years, of outward-looking, confident, often wonderful work around the world. 

“At the moment we’re one of the most effective people on international development, we’re one of the most effective people on international trade, we lead the world on tackling modern slavery, and we have huge skills and gifts to bring.

“I suppose I’d love to hear, from both sides, how those are deployed if we leave, or if we stay.”