THE MOST senior Catholic leader in England and Wales has claimed that Britain's asylum policy is 'dramatically lacking'.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, made the claim following the release of a new publication outlining a Catholic response to migrants and refugees.
Love the Stranger has been produced by the Department for International Affairs at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, which is presided over by Cardinal Nichols.
The publication was released on Tuesday, a day after the British Government's controversial Illegal Migration Bill passed its second reading in the Commons.
Cardinal Nichols said that Love the Stranger calls for 'safe and controlled access and a fair hearing to those seeking asylum'.
"Love the Stranger draws together more than 100 years of Catholic teaching to guide our response to migration in England and Wales today," he said.
"While it does not propose detailed solutions to complex problems, it clearly calls for procedures which permit safe and controlled access and a fair hearing to those seeking asylum.
"Present arrangements in this country are dramatically lacking in both of these requirements."
'People are not a political problem'
The publication was also supported by Belfast-born priest Bishop Paul McAleenan, who said it looked beyond labels such as 'asylum seeker' to see the person who has left their homeland in search of a better life.
As Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees for the Bishops' Conference, he emphasised the need to uphold the innate human dignity of those seeking refuge.
"Our starting point as a society must be to recognise migrants and refugees as people," he said.
"We need to understand their stories, their reasons for leaving their homelands and hopes for building a future here.
"We should never view people arriving from elsewhere as a political problem to be solved, but rather as brothers and sisters who we have a responsibility towards, and who greatly enrich our communities."
Bishop McAleenan, an Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, added: "People are driven to leave their countries, sometimes making dangerous journeys or risking exploitation, because of conflict, poverty, oppression, or lack of opportunities.
"Looking beyond our own borders, we have a duty to help people flourish in their homelands, as well as welcoming those who leave in search of a better life."
Among the principles underpinning Love the Stranger are the support for the right of anyone seeking a better life to migrate, and a call on the government to help other countries address the factors that drive people from their homelands.
The document can he downloaded by clicking here.