Thinking Anglicans

Bishops criticise government plans for asylum-seekers

Updated Wednesday (twice) and again Friday (scroll down)
See also later article here.

The UK Government recently announced plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. This has been extensively reported in the media but in case you missed it, here are links to the official Home Office press release, and to the text of Home Secretary’s speech in Kigali.

Bishops of the Church of England have expressed criticism, including:

Archbishop of Canterbury

…And this season is also why there are such serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas. The details are for politics. The principle must stand the judgement of God and it cannot. It  cannot carry the weight of resurrection justice, of life conquering death. It cannot carry the weight of the resurrection that was first to the least valued, for it privileges the rich and strong. And it cannot carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values, because 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…

Archbishop of York

…Or rather, Christ finds us. He comes to us, as he came to Mary Magdalene, and he asks why we’re crying and who we’re looking for.

He has returned to take us with him. Like Mary and like Elizabeth who will be baptised in just a moment, He know us by name. He shows us what really matters. He shows us what we should strive for, which is why, among so many other things that trouble our world at the moment, it is so depressing and so distressing this week to find that asylum seekers fleeing war, famine and oppression from 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.

We can do better than this. We can do better than this because of what we see in the Risen Christ a vision for our humanity, which breaks barriers down – not new obstacles put in the path. After all, there is, in law, no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker. It is the people who exploit them that we need to crack down on, not our sisters and brothers in their need…

Bishop of Chelmsford

Full text of letter (PDF)

The Church Times has this: Rwanda off-shoring plan is ‘opposite of the nature of God’, Welby says and Government plans to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda denounced by faith leaders.

Press Association via Independent: Johnson accused of ‘disgraceful’ attack on Welby over Rwanda policy criticism

The Tablet Ruth Gledhill: Cardinal and Archbishop condemn Rwanda asylum plan

Telegraph Allison PearsonJudge yourself first, Justin Welby, before preaching to the rest of us

Archbishop Cranmer: Boris Johnson’s ‘disgraceful slur’ against the Archbishop of Canterbury

Guardian: No 10 goes into battle with archbishops over Rwanda asylum plan

Church Times Stephen Bates: Press: Tory papers turn on Welby for asylum ‘rant’

Church Times Angela Tilby: Welby’s Easter sermon deepened divisions

Church Times Prime Minister accuses senior clergy of misconstruing Rwanda proposal

Independent: Editorial: Justin Welby is right – the Rwanda plan raises troubling ethical questions (registration required)

Independent Cathy Newman: Thank heavens for Justin Welby: the Church has a duty to speak truth to power

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Max Williams
Max Williams
1 month ago

I admit that the proposed solution appears extreme, but the government are trying to address two facts that our archbishops, for all their bleating and hand-wringing, do not comment upon. First…those getting to our shores are not penniless refugees. They have paid between £8 and £14k each to get delivered our shores by dinghy. They are, in fact, the richest of the economic migrants. The actual refugees are still in Eastern Europe. Further, those rocking up have destroyed all ID papers as they know that this will force the UKBF to retain them and, where it’s possibly believable, claim to… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Max Williams
1 month ago

I’d love to know where you get your information from (actually, I can guess, it’s starts with “Daily” and ends with “Mail”). Refugees are not required to be penniless to be in need of protection. Many fleeing e.g. Syria were comfortably middle class before war destroyed the lives they had built. People undertake the dangerous crossing because there are no safe routes for refugees to get to the UK. There is a simple solution: grant temporary travel documents to those seeking asylum, allow them to buy plane or ferry tickets and let immigration deal with them when they arrive, by… Read more »

Max Williams
Max Williams
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

Sadly my information is direct. I work for the home office and spend my days detecting and then processing the immigrants who wash up on our shores. It’s heartbreaking but that doesn’t change the fact that most have spent months scraping the money together to hand it over to thugs who smuggle them. They’re mostly not running away from persecution….because it doesn’t exist in the 5 countries they travelled through to get to Calais. I don’t personally read it but if my observations parse with the Daily Mail then they’re right. It’s gotta happen sometimes. Any other patronising dismissives you’d… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Max Williams
1 month ago

People fleeing persecution are not required to stop at the first country you deem “safe”, nor do they cease to be fleeing persecution just because they’ve passed through such countries.

That people with your attitude work for the Home Office is as depressing as it is unsurprising.

Francis James
Francis James
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

Following Home Office logic of Mr Williams I conclude that since UK has no Border with the countries (Syria, Afghanistan, etc) or continents (Africa) from which vast majority refuges tend to come we should take none. The fact that the Royal Navy has now been dragged in to this is ironic considering that it contains quite a few commonwealth citizens (as do the other UK armed forces), all of whom will have to pay through the nose if they & their families wish to stay in UK after they leave the military. And let us not forget the many others… Read more »

Ben R
Ben R
Reply to  Max Williams
1 month ago

If your information is direct it is curious that you seem unaware that your own department’s refusal rate (i.e. refusing cases because they are not genuine refugees) is at an all time low. But perhaps you can tell us how it destroys trafficking. To me it seems like Christmas has come early for the traffickers. Not only will they be able to traffick people to the UK (the idea this will stop all people from coming is for the birds. Even if they understand the policy there is no way the UK can deport all 35000 a year or whatever… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Max Williams
1 month ago

What, as a Christian, should we think is wrong with them wanting to come here? Yes, it doesn’t necessarily suit our personal interests. It may cost us money. But I can’t see any Christian reason to object to them coming to this country.

Jeremy Morris
Jeremy Morris
Reply to  Max Williams
1 month ago

This is itself a cheap shot. These are genuine asylum seekers. To parrot this contributor’s logic, no one would put themselves through the hardship of travelling across unfamiliar territory, hazarding a dangerous passage, and losing in the process thousands of pounds, if they were ‘the richest of the economic migrants’ and by implication had other options. This is a smear. The government scheme amounts to a forced removal of individuals from the UK to a country thousands of miles away with a poor human rights record. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Jeremy Morris
1 month ago

These are genuine asylum seekers.” How do you know this?

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

At last the archbishops show some backbone and have spoken out against the latest awful idea of this Government. Credit to them. That said, I don’t think they articulated particularly well why, as Christians, we should find this objectionable. I also thought their writing was somewhat pompous which dulls the message to the general public.

A big step in the right direction but IMHO their inexperience in challenging the Government shows and is an area they can improve in future.

Colin
Colin
1 month ago

I agree entirely with Max Williams… I also find it sad that both Archbishops both preach high theological jargonese… they need to keep comments straightforward, easy to understand and offer alternative Christian based solutions that they believe will solve the trafficking solutions as so clearly outlined by Max.

Ian
Ian
Reply to  Colin
1 month ago

Care for the fatherless, the widow and the stranger within your gates, Straightforward enough?

Colin
Colin
Reply to  Ian
1 month ago

I agree, that is straightforward enough…but please explain to the archbishops just how clear their message can be if they were to talk plainly and avoid political and theological treacle.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Colin
1 month ago

Quite so. The archbishops would do well to say plainly that they advocate unrestricted right of entry and settlement in the UK for citizens of every other country.

Nick
Nick
1 month ago

Surely, the best way to fulfil our legal, moral and Christian obligations is for a person seeking refuge in the UK to be able to present themselves to any consulate in a third party country, from where their application can be assessed – either with immediate acceptance, immediate refusal, or a conditional response which would be investigated more thoroughly on arrival in UK. (The existing right to claim asylum on arrival at a UK port would still, of course, exist) This would go some way to neuter the need for people trafficking (as there would be no need to get… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

The Home Office has seldom been a particularly sympathetic department. Of one permsec (1948-57) it was written ‘Sir Frank Aubrey Newsam Endeavoured to look gruesome, Which carried considerable weight With successive secretaries of state.’ Newsam’s successor, Charles Cunningham (1957-66), shed tears when learning of Roy Jenkins’ proposed radical social reforms. Jenkins was touched, and attempted to show solicitude to Cunningham, only to discover that the tears were of rage. I live in a village between Deal and Dover where the sound of search and rescue helicopters over in-shore waters is now a regular occurrence (daily at present). Indeed, I can… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone to whom the term ‘erudite’ applies more appropriately!

I agree with you that the flow of migrants in small vessels across the Channel is unlikely to be greatly reduced by the proposed new initiative.

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

I should add that the UK has ‘form’ in this sort of policy, whether in imitation of concentrating Boers in Cuban fashion, interning those fleeing Nazism as ‘enemy aliens’ at the outset of the last war, interning Malays or Kenyans in ‘new villages’, or interning suspected ‘Fenians’ before, during and after 1922. Time and again a coercive policy is subject to challenge and collapses because the politicians and officials administering it are put in the political and/or judicial dock and cannot stand the scrutiny. Of course, it may take a long time for them to get really ‘found out’, even… Read more »

Father David
Father David
1 month ago

It would appear that Archbishop Welby’s Easter sermon has touched a raw nerve in Downing Street. It was reported on Newsnight last night that when addressing Conservative MPs following his performance in the Commons, the Prime Minister was heard to utter a criticism of the Archbishop for not condemning Vladimir Putin from the pulpit of Canterbury cathedral on Easter Day. This Prime Ministerial comment is certainly below the belt and totally unworthy of someone who currently holds the highest political office in the land. It is regrettable that Mrs. May’s condemnation of the Home Secretary’s plan to send refugees to… Read more »

Angusian
Angusian
Reply to  Father David
1 month ago

Surely, hitting below the belt is this PM’s modus operandi; he stops at nothing to maintain his position; he has long been estranged from ‘truth’ so a few more distortions can hardly be unexpected!

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
1 month ago

Are we missing the point? The practical and legal obstacles to this proposal cast doubt on it ever happening. But it does provide a diversion from Partygate as well as appealing to the PM’s dwindling base with local elections pending. The proposal is as cynical as it is appalling. Have we really come to this? Kyrie eleison.

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
1 month ago

Good on the Archbishops!
And for Bojo to complain about not challenging Putin – both Archbishops have called out the Ukrainian invasion and – de facto – Putin – as evil for the past month.
And, as for the Rwandan plan – it is morally and ethically reprehensible, that we should treat vulnerable human beings in this way. And I hope it doesn’t come to pass, and I hope that Priti Patel is soon removed from office.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

I’ve no problem with bishops speaking out against government proposals, although I do think it’s odd that they defend so vigorously their right not to offer alternatives. But it all rings so hollow and a bit ‘choking on the cornflakes’ when most bishops are struggling to run their own dioceses. We now have the bishops’ backlash against the PM’s lockdown breaches. Again it all sounds a bit plank and speck-ish when it comes to handling covid.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

The archbishops are absolutely right that the Rwanda plan is a disgrace and contrary to Christian teaching. Stephen is also right that the archbishops and bishops are very susceptible to criticism themselves as they have presided over the precipitous decline of the church, and therefore their authority is much diminished by their leadership failings.

Howie Adan
Howie Adan
1 month ago

‘From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live…’ Acts 17.26. History is clear that people have always migrated; there is no stopping it and we have no eternal claim to the land we now inhabit. What, two thousand years from now do we expect the populations of the earth to still reflect today’s demographic? Sure, set up systems to fight injustice and deceit wherever we find it. But if I suddenly find I have a new neighbour the… Read more »

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