Church of England Slams 'Immoral' Decision to Deport Asylum Seekers to Rwanda

Published June 14th, 2022 - 09:00 GMT
asylum seekers
UK campaigners get their last chance in court to stop the government's first flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda, as protests mount against the policy. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)
Church of England's senior leaders slam Home Office's Rwanda migrant plan

Senior leaders at the Church of England have ripped into the Home Office's 'immoral' plan to deport migrants to Rwanda.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are among those who have lent their pens to a strongly worded letter that denounced the policy as one that 'shames Britain'.

Signed by the Most Rev Justin Welby and the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, the senior leaders, alongside 23 bishops that sit in the House of Lords, criticised the plan for lacking morality.

Writing to the Times, the co-signed letter states: 'Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. 

'The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries.'

It comes just hours after three Court of Appeal judges struck down lawyers, charities and campaigners' latest bid to thwart the first Kigali-bound flight leaving on Tuesday.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents more than 80 per cent of Border Force staff, and charities Care4Calais and Detention Action challenged refusal to grant an injunction on Friday, which meant the first flight to the east African country could go ahead on Tuesday. 

But, following an urgent hearing in London on Monday, three senior judges dismissed the appeal, saying there was no error in the decision of Mr Justice Swift. 

The letter is also signed by the bishops of London, Durham, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester.

The Home Office's proposals to fly migrants who entered the UK illegally to Rwanda have split opinion and drawn the ire of several high profile figures. 

Rev Welby had previously used his Easter sermon to describe 'serious ethical questions' around the plan to send asylum seekers to the East African nation.

The Archbishop told his Canterbury congregation that the UK has a duty as a 'Christian country' to not 'sub-contract our responsibilities' after anyone who arrived in Britain illegally since January 1 could be relocated to Rwanda under a new deal. 

He later said it would have been 'cowardly' not to have spoken out against the plan. Cabinet ministers hit back at Mr Welby after his outspoken intervention in April. 

MPs later called Mr Welby's stinging intervention over the government's plan to send thousands of migrants with a one-way ticket to Rwanda 'clumsy'. 

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, a committed Catholic, said the government is not 'abandoning' migrants but taking on a 'very difficult responsibility' with the 'intention' of doing good' which he said is important within Christianity.  

Other Tory MPs John Redwood, Mike Wood and Tom Hunt also blasted Mr Welby's comments with Mr Hunt saying the Archbishop should be wary of 'clumsily intervening' into political issues. 

The Archbishop's comments were later echoed by Prince Charles, after The Mail revealed he had privately condemned the Rwanda asylum plan, saying giving Channel migrants a one-way ticket to Africa was 'appalling'.

Downing Street tried to cool the tensions later, saying Mr Johnson has 'nothing but respect and admiration' for the Prince.

The PM's official spokesman said: 'The Prime Minister has nothing but respect and admiration for the Prince of Wales, who's spoken out on a number of issues, not least the environment.'

The tetchy exchanges with Mr Johnson came amid fears ministers could be blocked from putting Channel migrants on the first flight to Rwanda

Mr Johnson, according to sources who attended a private meeting between the Prime Minister and Tory MPs after Easter, claimed the senior clergyman had 'misconstrued the policy'.

Mr Johnson told LBC the Government had expected that 'very active lawyers' would try to challenge the Rwanda policy.

'We have always said that we knew that this policy would attract attacks from those who want to have a completely open-doors approach to immigration, who want people to be able to come across the Channel without let or hindrance,' he said.

'There are very active lawyers in this field. I have the utmost respect for the legal profession but it is also important we stop criminal gangs.'

Asked if the policy will be worth it if it results in just one person being removed, Mr Johnson said: 'I think it's very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people's lives at risk in the Channel is going to be broken – is being broken – by this Government.

A Government spokesperson said: 'Our world-leading Partnership with Rwanda will see those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK relocated there to have their claims considered and rebuild their lives.

'There is no one single solution to the global migration crisis, but doing nothing is not an option and this partnership will help break the business model of criminal gangs and prevent loss of life.

'Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers and we are confident the agreement is fully compliant with all national and international law.'

It comes just months after the former archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan William, was locked in a war of words with the Government over its £120m scheme to halt a surge in Channel crossings.

He joined his successor and the incumbent Archbishop Justin Welby, and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell in questioning the morality of the plan, labelling it 'sinful'.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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