In a letter to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, Christian associations on December 18 expressed their “deep concern” over new measures introduced by the minister of the interior to control immigration and access to the right of asylum.
“The minister of the interior is seeking to excessively accelerate asylum procedures and make access to procedures on French territory nearly impossible by placing all bodies dealing with migrants under his control,” states the letter signed by Secours catholique president, Véronique Fayet, and Jean-Michel Hitter, president of the Fédération de l’Entraide protestante.
An Afghan refugee woman begs for coins near St Christopher Catholic Church in early September in Berlin. The church has continuously provided sanctuary to refugees fearing deportation while their asylum claims are considered by German authorities. Sitting on the bare pavement outside a Catholic Church, an Afghan refugee woman, dressed in a bright floral headscarf, calls out plaintively to passersby, begging for coins.
It’s a scene repeatedly played out in the German capital overwhelmed by refugees fleeing war, persecution and economic deprivation in the Middle East and Africa.
But at Christmas time and beyond, Catholic and Protestant churches are doing what they can to help those struggling and in need. Such sanctuary, known as church asylum in Germany, is providing temporary protection for some 600 refugees currently who do not have a legal residence, in effect placing the church between the refugees and the public authorities and safeguarding them until their legal cases can be heard and considered. While most German church members say they support providing sanctuary to refugees, Michael Haas, coordinator of refugee work in the Catholic Archdiocese of Berlin, told that some parishes are fearful of the practice because it falls into a kind of grey area of the law. It also requires financial resources and manpower to provide the care. Still, he said, the “church, bishops, congregations and the government in Germany have agreed that there might be a mutual trust and that the church will not abuse the system of church asylum.” Churches, he said, have agreed to use sanctuary in “very few and particular cases after a thorough legal check,” while there appears to be a tacit agreement that the government “would not deport such cases without first having a second look at the application.”