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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 16:13 GMT
Synod condemns people traffickers
Cockle picker at Morecambe Bay
The Morecambe Bay cocklers allegedly earned 1 a day
The Church of England General Synod has voted to condemn the exploitation of asylum seekers.

The Synod passed a motion condemning "the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable by organised criminals engaged in people trafficking".

The vote came at the end of a debate on asylum at a meeting in Church House, central London.

It follows the deaths of 19 Chinese cocklers who drowned in Morecambe Bay, Lancashire, on Thursday last week.

The victims were among a group of immigrant workers harvesting the cockles.

Nine asylum seekers were among the survivors.

I hope the Synod will join with me in condemning those who exploited these migrant workers, who died a most horrible death trapped in sinking sand
Canon John Hall

Police believe gangmasters were responsible for organising the harvesting and were paying the cocklers just 1 for a nine-hour shift.

The Reverend Canon John Hall, vicar of Warton in Lancashire, whose parish covers part of Morecambe Bay, told the Synod his parishioners had been "shocked" by the deaths of people who had been "simply digging for cockles".

He said: "I hope the Synod will join with me in condemning those who exploited these migrant workers, who died a most horrible death trapped in sinking sands."

Canon Hall called on the Synod to acknowledge the bravery of the coastguard and police in the incident and proposed a moment of silence in memory of "those who lost their lives while desperately trying to earn 1 a day."


Bishop of Southwark, the Right Reverend Thomas Butler, said the tragedy had attracted widespread attention "and may prove to change the public attitude towards those who seek a new life here."

He said the Church also had a duty to challenge press reporting which could create an atmosphere of fear and hostility toward asylum seekers.

The motion, carried by 253 votes to none against, also welcomed the contribution made to the Church by asylum seekers and expressed concern at their vilification in the media.

The Synod also called on the Government to deliver an asylum system characterised by "quality, speed and justice" and to ensure it did not present a "negative image" of vulnerable people.

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06 Feb 04  |  Lancashire

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