Dear Members,
Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs James Somerville-Meikle writes: Parliament broke up for summer recess this week. The weeks leading up to recess are usually some of the busiest for the Palace of Westminster with summer receptions and final meetings before the August break. But this year has felt eerily quiet, with most people in Westminster and Whitehall still working from home. The Catholic Union has marked recess by sending out a parliamentary update to our supporters in both Houses of Parliament. It covers our recent work on charities and the voluntary sector, homelessness and care homes, as well as our role in helping to get churches open again. It has been a busy few months, but it’s clear we have only scratched the surface in addressing the effects of the lockdown on our economy and people’s health. The hard work of rebuilding our economy and society in a way that is fair and supports the most vulnerable in society is just beginning.

A reminder that the Catholic Union will be hosting a webinar on 4 August with Jen Copestake and Fr Hugh MacKenzie on the future human and ethical challenges of Artificial Intelligence. More information and joining details can be found here.

The Pontifical Academy for Life issued a Note re Covid-19 entitled "Humana Communitas in the Age of Pandemic: Untimely Meditations of Life's Rebirth" on 22 July which you can read here.

Dignity of women migrants. Charity ‘Sisters Not Strangers’ has published a report revealing the situation of refugee and asylum-seeking women, including widespread homelessness, insufficient access to food, water and cleaning products, and difficulty accessing mental and physical healthcare services. The report collects the evidence gathered by nine charities support women migrants.
Legal challenge by asylum-seeker insufficiently protected from Covid-19. An asylum seeker who got Covid-19 in an accommodation centre, after warning the authorities that he was not feeling safe, has taken legal action against the government.
Care for the vulnerable in post-Covid recovery. Minister for the Commonwealth, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, has reaffirmed the UK’s attachment to protect “the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society, including refugees and members of ethnic, religious and belief minorities”. Closing the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, he said it is necessary to mitigate the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on them.
Domestic abuse cases at record high. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline received more than 40,000 calls and contacts during the first three months of lockdown. In June, calls and contacts were up 80% on pre coronavirus levels.
Project on migration and NRPF. Home Office Minister, Victoria Atkins MP, has announced “a pilot project to understand and measure the needs of migrant women who have no recourse to public funds”. Currently, women who are suffering from domestic abuse but who are in the UK with the wrong visa – or no visa – are banned from public support.

Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need made a statement about the reconversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque hereCardinal Vincent and other UK church leaders made a statement last week.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher (the Vatican's Foreign Minister), speaking on the first anniversary of the Truro Report said that the Catholic Church had failed to defend Christians effectively, partly because it historically accepted persecution as part of its "community story".  Meanwhile, a Catholic bishop has deplored the world's indifference to escalating extremist violence in northern Mozambique.

Bishop urges greater care for migrants. Bishop Paul McAleenan, the Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has urged the UK and France to prioritise saving lives of migrants who attempt to cross the Channel. Commenting on the Declaration of Intent signed between both countries on 12 July, he said the countries should seek to understand the roots of migration. He added: “The welfare of those who are destitute is vital.”
Aftermath of Windrush scandal. Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, has announced that the Government will review the so-called ‘hostile environment’, and discuss possible next steps in September 2021 – to learn from the failures of the ‘Windrush generation’ cases. Ms Patel also said Home Office staff will receive more training, and that there will be an effort to make the Department more inclusive.
Migration centre to return to being a prison. The Home Office has announced that Morton Hall migration centre will return as a prison from 2021. The Home Office uses migration centres to detain migrants while their cases are being processed – not because they have committed a crime. HM Inspectorate of Prisons has already reported high levels of self-harm, violence and use of force at Morton Hall. The UK is also the only country in Europe where asylum-seekers and migrants can be detained for an unlimited time.
Plea for rehabilitation programmes. Labour MP Carolyn Harris has argued that “rehabilitation and employability programmes serve as a lifeline for many women leaving prison”. In an open letter published in PoliticsHome, she also argued that “attitudes to women who have served a prison sentence need to change – amongst employers, the media and the public”, if we want to create a better future for all. Carolyn Harris is Welsh Labour’s Deputy Leader, and PPS to Keir Starmer MP as Leader of the Opposition.


The Tablet is hosting a webinar on "Overcoming indifference to migrants and refugees" on 30 July at 5pm.  Cardinal Michael Czerny talks to The Tablet's Rome correspondent Christopher Lamb.  Tickets are £12.50.  See for more details and booking.
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