Martin Docherty-Hughes, MP for West Dunbartonshire, has hit out at the Home Office over changes to immigration rules which make it difficult for priests and religious leaders from overseas to come to the UK.
The local SNP MP has received almost a hundred letters from local church-goers across West Dunbartonshire voicing concerns about the damaging impact of new restrictions which explicitly prevent “Ministers of Religion” from entering the country using a Tier 5 visa.
Parishioners from local churches, including St Eunan’s in Clydebank and St Patrick’s in Dumbarton, have expressed fears that restricting supply-placements from overseas clergy may result in local services and parish activities being scaled back.
Local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has written to the UK government calling on the Home Office to urgently rethink its new immigration rules for religious workers – highlighting that the higher visa costs will disproportionality impact parishes from the poorest communities.
The MP for West Dunbartonshire has also signed two Early Day Motions (EDMS) tabled by the SNP in the House of Commons urging the UK government to put in place a fairer immigration system which better supports the work of churches across the UK.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
“I have been contacted by a significant number of parishioners from across West Dunbartonshire who are concerned about the impact this ridiculous policy change will have on our communities.
“These new visa rules will seriously limit the ability of parish priests and religious leaders to deliver services across Clydebank, Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven. It will also disproportionately impact poorer parishes that are unable to afford to afford the significantly higher visa costs – undermining longstanding relationships with clergy from overseas.
“Here we see yet another example of the UK government’s hostile approach towards immigration and how it is implementing retrograde policy changes with scant regard for the consequences.
“I have written to the UK immigration Minister to highlight these concerns on behalf of my constituents. I would urge the Home Office to take urgent steps to review these visa restrictions and put in place a fairer system that better supports this important work.”
Letter sent to UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes MP
The Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP
Minister of State for Immigration
2 Marsham Street
TIER 5 VISAS FOR MINISTERS OF RELIGION
I have been contacted by a number of constituents regarding the above issue which you made a statement on in December.
My constituents are concerned with the impact that the changes in immigration rules are having on their own parishes for them to carry out their work and worship.
These changes introduce additional costs, a lengthy cooling-off period and language tests even for religious workers who have extensive experience of working in the UK, making it difficult for parishes and other religious bodies to secure the return of individuals with whom they have a long-standing relationship.
These changes will have both financial and practical implications for poorer parishes and for those seeking to make applications to come to the UK and needs to be urgently addressed. Therefore, I would strongly request that you suspend implementation of these changes and to consult with religious organisations about how a fairer system can be introduced that better supports their work.
I look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP