The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned of an "upsurge" in racism across the country targeted at people seen to be foreign to the United Kingdom.
Justin Welby told journalists at a lunch in Westminster on Monday afternoon that he was worried about the language used to describe migration. "The language we use must reflect the value of the human being and not treat immigration as just a deep menace that is somehow going to overwhelm the country," he said.
However he refused to be drawn directly on comments made over the weekend by the defence secretary. On Sunday Michael Fallon triggered a row by claiming that some British towns were "swamped" with migrants from the European Union. He later said his language had been "careless".
Welby said "every wave of immigration has been controversial when it comes" but the UK should not let go of its long tradition of welcoming those from overseas.
He added: "The British are a very mixed bunch. There are very few of us who trace ourselves back to the pre-Romans which was an unfortunate wave of immigration."
"I think with some people we have a duty of care. We also have a duty of care to the poorest of own and to manage the process of immigration prudently and carefully, abut also generously," he said.
"Do I worry about the language? Yes I do. I really do. I think, we've got 9,000 clergy woking in 16,000 parishes, living in these parishes. We have better reports from the grassroots than almost anyone.
"And what we are seeing is an upsurge in minor racist, anti-Semitic anti-Islamic, anti-foreigners, xenophobic, not major things, just comments being made, things being said, which are for people who come from those backgrounds seriously uncomfortable, really quite frightening."
Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the influential Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said Fallon's original comments had been "nasty, inappropriate and wrong".
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It is right to take care in the language that is used."