CHURCH leaders came together in Huddersfield to speak out against the “appalling” treatment of asylum seekers.
Members of all faiths joined forces in a bid to help asylum seekers who have been forced to flee persecution.
Huddersfield ministers talked about meeting people who have been tortured and gang raped in their native homelands.
They say people come to the UK because the country is historically seen as a safe, caring place – not for benefits and free housing.
The Rev Peter Whittaker, chairman of the Huddersfield, Halifax and Bradford Methodist Church, said: “When you listen to their stories, you realise how vulnerable these people are.
“They have endured persecution, they have endured torture.
“They wouldn’t do this voluntarily, many of them have been through a great deal of pain and suffering.
“We are seen as a safe place, historically we are known as a caring nation and that is very important.
“What I would ask of people is to look beyond the statistics, they don’t show the full picture.”
The minister, who lives in Rastrick, said his church was dealing with asylum seekers from all over the world.
“We are finding more and more people on our doorsteps who have come from Africa, Turkey, Iraq and the Middle East.
“Hearing their stories opens up a window on the carelessness and inhumane treatment in other parts of the world.”
Church leaders from throughout West Yorkshire put their name to a statement of support for asylum seekers.
They expressed concern at their plight, saying many face “inhumane” treatment during the application process.
Rev Philip Clements-Jewery, from the New North Road Baptist Church, in Huddersfield runs a weekly drop-in centre for asylum seekers.
Between 20 and 30 people living in Huddersfield attend and support each other.
He said: “The amount of benefits they receive is minimal and legal aid is extremely limited.
“They are not allowed to work, even though many of them are professional and skilled.
“If we allowed them to work when they came over here they would be paying tax and National Insurance and they wouldn’t be the burden so many people think they are.
“Their stories are so awful often they don’t want to talk about what they have been through.
“I mean torture, gang rape and abuse in terms of what they have endured.”
Ten church ministers spoke out at the New North Parade church, along with members from the Salvation Army.
Their statement of support called for greater awareness of the needs of those seeking sanctuary in the UK, improved legal representation and for asylum seekers to be allowed to work.