GRAVE CONCERN about Britain's treatment of refugees. is expressed in a report published this week by Christian Aid. "One is led to question", the report concludes, "whether Britain's reputation as a hospitable home for refugees is in fact merited."
In particular, it attacks the "discriminatory fees now levied against foreign students, which fall very heavily on refugees, and the recent directive to college principals asking them to reduce their foreign intake by 10 per cent this year." Such measures spoil Britain's image, it argues. The 72-page document, "Refugees: Africa's Challenge" also calls for more liberal, criteria for the admission of refugees together with a coherent long-term government strategy, which it claims has Peen absent to date.
And it criticises the official failure to respond to appeals for clear reception procedures and the drastic reduction in the amount pledged by the Government for this year to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "There is certainly no justification for any diminishing of the British commitment in view of the number of refugee programmes in need of funds," it says.
The report is a comprehensive survey of the situation in Africa where, it says, there are more than three million people needing care and assistance. The root causes of the problem are described as "political, religious or economic oppression, often backed by military force."
Because of its colonial past, Britain could not escape its share of responsibility: borders were drawn which "seldom, if ever, bore any relationship to traditional ethnic groups, corn111011 linguistic patterns or to the boundaries of historic African nations.
"Nor can Africa shrug off the legacy of customs, laws, language or business which bind them in an unwilling embrace."
Two broad categories of refugees could be drawn up: by far the largest group consisted of villagers who fled from violence caused by tribal disorders, racialist repression or civil war between two activist political groups. A relatively smaller group comprised mainly urban people escaping from acts or threats of political persecution. A refugee's needs are the same as other people's — to eat, to be warm, to earn your living and to be able to share the company of your fellow men in peace and security, the report says. "Nevertheless," it continues, "refugees are people apart. Not only do they not belong, but they actually escaped from sonic violence of the spirit or of the body which leaves them fearful, perhaps of reprisals or of punishment of relatives remaining behind. "1 hey are necessarily alienated, frustrated, often in shock. These are psycholocial problems, not solved with blankets, food or money." They needed help in finding a new sense of identity and a new legal status to restore some sense of belonging.
Meanwhile, the Joint Working Group for Refugees from Chile in Britain are still awaiting a reply from the Prime Minister to a letter they sent him in December protesting against the withdrawal of a £12,000 grant for language classes for Chilean refugees,
In the letter they said: "No government department is willing to assume responsibility for such English classes in spite of the fact that they recognise that good language training must form part of any programme intended to integrate refugees in Britain."
The cut-back arises from a dispute between the Home Office and the Department of Education and Socience as to who should finance the classes.
The group is now facing a critical financial deficit and has been forced to suspend all teaching.
The letter to Mr Callaghan is their last attempt to resolve the matter: previous appeals to both the Home Office and the DES have got nowhere.
Pope deplores abuses of marriage law
Pope Paul has deplored the abuse of certain changes in the handling of marriage cases by Church courts "to arrive at a practical evasion of canonical procedural law." Among such abuses he cited "the deceitful creation of fictitious domiciles or fixed addresses."
The plaintiff's place of residence can determine which lower court has jurisdiction over the case, and some diocesan courts have reputations for speed or leniency in handling cases. Pope Paul was addressing officials of the Roman Rota, the Church's high court, whom he received in audience at the beginning of the judicial year.