People are entitled to fear the impact that the influx of large numbers of migrants could have on their communities, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said it was “absolutely outrageous” to condemn people who raised such concerns as racist.
In an interview with Parliament’s The House magazine, he said that the scale of the migrant crisis meant such anxieties were entirely reasonable.
“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,” he said.
“There is a tendency to say ‘Those people are racist’, which is just outrageous, absolutely outrageous.”
The Archbishop said it was essential that the “genuine fear” that people felt was listened to and resources put in place to address their concerns.
“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?” he said.
He said that with the right support, the British people had shown they were able to deal “brilliantly” with the challenges which such situations created.
“It is simply a question of the scale on which we are prepared to act, in a way that spreads the load so it can be managed,” he said.
“Fear is justified, I wouldn’t want to criticise that for a moment, but so is hope wholly justified, because we have the capacity. We’re those kind of people, we always have been.”