PORTSMOUTH City Council’s decision over asylum seekers has been branded ‘narrow minded’ by the congregation at Portsmouth Cathedral.
A strongly-worded statement has been released by the cathedral following councillors’ decision earlier this week over asylum seekers.
A Conservative Party proposal was passed that will see the authority write to home secretary Theresa May requesting Portsmouth be removed as a ‘cluster area’ taking in asylum families.
Cllr Donna Jones, leader of the authority, has vehemently defended the decision, arguing they are making a simple request to the government to reassess the city’s status ‘to ease on school places, children’s services, social care and housing’.
But a statement released by the cathedral said: ‘Portsmouth City Council has passed a motion which is unworthy of the city.
‘Its rejection of asylum seekers is mean spirited and narrow minded.
‘The cathedral has generous hospitality as one of its core values, and we are proud that this trident has always applied to the whole city.
‘This coming Sunday (18th) the cathedral, known as the Cathedral of the Sea, holds its annual Seafarers Service, which members of the council attend.
‘It is a recognition of the city’s openness to the world and of its important maritime history.
‘Our Christian perspective demands that we see all people to be made in the image of God and of equal worth.
‘Offering a home to a small number of people and recognising that asylum seekers have much to offer to the city is demanded by our common humanity.
‘Portsmouth has a long tradition of multi-cultural harmony, and this decision undermines that history.’
The statement continued: ‘The city seeks to be more open to tourism, business and education, but the city council has given the message that Portsmouth is not a welcoming city.
‘It is disingenuous of the council to have focused on unaccompanied asylum seeking children as the main issue – currently there are five such children in the city.
‘This seems to fly in the face of the recent outpouring of support and care from ordinary people in Portsmouth to those in Calais, and other places, as evidenced by the success of the Don’t Hate Donate campaign and others.
‘Portsmouth Cathedral and Portsmouth City were created in the same year – 1927.
‘The cathedral is and has been deeply involved in the life of the city, and is embarrassed and appalled by this crass decision. City and cathedral should both show generous hospitality and a spirit of welcome to those in the deepest need.’
In a previous statement Cllr Jones said she wanted the city to have control over the number of families coming in.
She said: ‘While people are twisting this as the Tories being anti-asylum seekers, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
‘We have compassion and care deeply about the atrocities that have gone on under the Assad regime in Syria.
‘We are not saying we don’t want any more asylum seekers in Portsmouth.
‘We simply want to be in the same position as the rest of the towns and cities in the UK where we are in a position to offer help, as opposed to it being imposed on us.’
Meanwhile, Portsmouth’s Liberal Democrats have launched on online petition calling for the city to remain a cluster area for asylum seekers.
The petition is on their website.