Archbishop of Canterbury criticises Rwanda policy during Easter message
The Independent

The government’s plans to send migrants to Rwanda cannot stand up to the judgement of God, the head of the Church of England has said.

In his Easter sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said “sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well, like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures”.

The Archbishop’s remarks at Canterbury Cathedral follow the government announcing plans to curb migrant crossings of the English Channel in small boats.

The Archbishop of York has joined the Archbishop of Canterbury in criticising the government’s plans to send migrants to Rwanda.

In his Easter Sunday sermon at York Minster, Stephen Cottrell said he had found it “so depressing and distressing this week to find that asylum seekers fleeing war, famine and oppression from deeply, deeply troubled parts of the world will not be treated with the dignity and compassion that is the right of every human being, and instead of being dealt with quickly and efficiently here on our soil will be shipped to Rwanda”.

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But Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Church of England’s most senior clergyman is mistaken.

Speaking on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend programme, he said: “I think [the Archbishop of Canterbury] misunderstands what the policy is trying to achieve, and that it isn’t an abandonment of responsibility, it is in fact a taking on of a very difficult responsibility.

“The problem that is being dealt with is that people are risking their lives in the hands of people traffickers, to get into this country illegally. Now, it’s not the illegal bit of it, it is the encouragement of people traffickers that needs to be stopped.”

He said “90 per cent of people coming are young men who by coming via people traffickers are jumping the queue for others”.

Rees-Mogg added: “They are in doing so not only risking their lives but supporting organised crime. What we need to do is focus on legal routes into this country, of which there are quite a number.”

The government’s Rwanda plans have faced a fierce backlash from opposition parties, some within the Conservative Party, and charities.

Under the plans, which the government said will curb migrant crossings of the English Channel in small boats, people who are deemed to have entered Britain by unlawful means since January 1st may be sent to Rwanda, where they will be permitted to apply for asylum in the African country.

The UN Refugee Agency opposed the plans and on Saturday Robina Qureshi, director of the refugee homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing, said: “The refugee policy of this country should be clear by now.

“It’s not about saving refugees’ skins, it’s about saving this government’s skin.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel has challenged those against her plan to send migrants to Rwanda to come up with a better idea to tackle small boat crossings in the Channel.

Writing a joint article in The Times with Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta, Patel reiterated that her controversial plans were “bold and innovative” after religious leaders slammed the move.

A Home Office spokesperson told PA that the UK has a “proud history of supporting those in need of protection” and added that “our resettlement programmes have provided safe and legal routes to better futures for hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.”

The spokesperson continued: “However, the world is facing a global migration crisis on an unprecedented scale and change is needed to prevent vile people smugglers putting people’s lives at risk and to fix the broken global asylum system.

“Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers. Under this agreement, they will process claims in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention, national and international human rights laws.”

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