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Top UK Catholic slams migration 'fear-mongering'

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February 18, 2014 12:57 PM EST | AP

LONDON (AP) — Britain's top Roman Catholic cleric on Tuesday accused U.K. politicians of fear-mongering on immigration issues, saying it is wrong to argue that newcomers are a drain on the economy.

Immigration, a hot-button issue in Britain, got a jolt of attention following the loosening of restrictions on migrants from Bulgaria and Romania earlier this year, a move some claimed would send Eastern Europeans flooding into Britain.

The Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, said Britons should acknowledge the positive contribution of immigrants "to our well-being and economy. "

"I think the idea that immigrants are a net drain on our economy is false," he said at a news conference.

The archbishop, who is to be made a cardinal by Pope Francis in Rome this weekend, said "leaders ought to appeal to something more normal and more substantial than fear."

Last week the outspoken Nichols criticized the Conservative-led government's cuts to welfare spending, saying they had destroyed the "basic safety net" and left people facing hunger and destitution.