Rwanda deportations 'an immoral policy that shames Britain', Archbishops tell Boris Johnson

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Deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda is an “immoral policy that shames Britain”, leaders of the Church of England have said in an extraordinary intervention against Boris Johnson’s Government.

A letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell, as well as 23 other Bishops who sit in the House of Lords including Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines, is being published in The Times on Tuesday to coincide with the first deportation flight to Rwanda.

Conservative MPs cheered in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon after it emerged a last-ditch legal bid to block the first Rwanda deportation flight had failed.

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But the letter from the Church of England leaders said: “Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. 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. Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.”

The Government's deportation plan has caused controversy and led to protestsThe Government's deportation plan has caused controversy and led to protests
The Government's deportation plan has caused controversy and led to protests

It added: “Many are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. Many are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese citizens, who have an asylum grant rate of at least 88 per cent.

“These are people Jesus had in mind as he said when we offer hospitality to a stranger, we do it for him.

“We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law – which protects the right to claim asylum.

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“We must end the evil trafficking; many churches are involved in fighting this evil. This needs global co-operation across every level of society. To reduce dangerous journeys to the UK we need safe routes: the church will continue to advocate for them. But deportations – and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries – are not the way. This immoral policy shames Britain.”

Protesters against the Rwanda planProtesters against the Rwanda plan
Protesters against the Rwanda plan

The latest intervention follows the Archbishops of Canterbury and York speaking out against the policy in their Easter sermons. Archbishop Cottrell described the plan as “depressing and distressing”.

Boris Johnson and other Cabinet ministers hit back at Mr Welby, who said there were “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas”, for his intervention in April.

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”.

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It comes after reports that the Prince of Wales allegedly said in private that the policy is “appalling”.

Mr Johnson declined to comment on whether Charles was wrong in his comments, adding: “This is about making sure that we break the business model of criminal gangs who are not only risking people’s lives but undermining public confidence in legal migration.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman later said Mr Johnson “has nothing but respect and admiration for the Prince of Wales, who’s spoken out on a number of issues, not least the environment”.

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.”

Payments for each deportation

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The policy to forcibly send to Rwanda asylum seekers who arrive in the UK in unauthorised Channel crossings was brought forward after a £120 million economic deal was struck with the African nation.

Cash for each removal is expected to follow.

Another part of the Government’s new policy on asylum seekers is due to involve the establishment of a new processing centre in the North Yorkshire village of Linton-on-Ouse.

That plan, which is facing a legal challenge from Hambleton Council, would see asylum seekers living in a former RAF base in the village should it go ahead.

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