A SENIOR cleric who cared for trafficked child has written to his MP expressing concern about a forthcoming bill restricting the rights of asylum seekers.

The Reverend Canon David Tomlinson, who was vicar of Shildon when he fostered “Stephen”, has contacted Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison after plans were unveiled to toughen up the UK’s asylum system.

The forthcoming “new plan for immigration” legislation amounts to the most significant overhaul of the system in decades and means people who have travelled through a “safe country” such as France or Belgium to reach Britain will not be admitted into the UK system.

For the first time the way people entered the UK – either through legal or irregular means – will have an impact on how their claim progresses.

Rev Tomlinson wrote to Ms Davison: “I am the foster Dad of a trafficked child, he was placed with us through the local authority, was traumatised and struggled to settle down.

“We persisted, and he was soon learning English and in fulltime education. By the time he was 17 Theresa May was home secretary and the ‘hostile environment’ in full swing.

“It wasn’t until he was 17 that he could apply for right to remain, it was a torturous journey through impenetrable bureaucracy.

“We supported his appeal with a vigorous campaign including national newspapers and more, the court ruling does not allow me to make public the outcome.”

Rev Tomlinson said people fleeing for their lives have little choice in how they seek safety.

“There is no ‘wrong type’ of refugee, yet these reforms punish refugees for how they enter the country, creating one rule for some, and a different rule for others.

“Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention and to remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim

“People seeking asylum are already demonised while desperately trying to navigate a complex system. Creating a divide based on how people try to reach safety will further fuel the harassment, violent attacks and hate crimes people already experience.

“It is recognised in the 1951 Convention that people fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means in order to escape and claim asylum in another country – there is no legal way to travel to the UK for the specific purpose of seeking asylum.

He said people should be treated with compassion and given the best possible chance for a fair and timely decision that is right the first time.

He added: “My family has personal experience of the heartache the existing system causes, your Government is going to make that even more horrible.

“I beg you to go and talk to some asylum seekers, see the fear in their eyes, witness the trauma in the way they present, then and only then tell a child who has been raped, a women who has been prostituted, a young man who has been enslaved, that you don’t believe them, you don’t care about them, and that one of the world’s wealthiest nations with fewer than one per cent of the world’s refugees has no space for them. For that is what the proposed changes are in effect doing.”

Ms Davison was contacted for a comment.