Thinking Anglicans

Lords Spiritual oppose Rwanda asylum policy

Church of England press release

Bishops’ letter to The Times on the Rwanda asylum policy

14/06/2022
All of the current Lords Spiritual have signed a letter to The Times voicing alarm about the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as early as today.

They wrote:

Sir,

Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. 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.

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. They are the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value. 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.

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. 

The Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury; the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York; the Right Rev Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London; the Right Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham; the Right Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham; the Right Rev John Inge, Bishop of Worcester; the Right Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry; the Right Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford; the Right Rev James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle; the Right Rev Alan Smith,  Bishop of St Albans; the Right Rev Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough; the Right Rev Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely; the Right Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark;  the Right Rev Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds; the Right Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester; the Right Rev Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester; the Right Rev Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol; the Right Rev Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby; the Right Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn; the Right Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester; the Right Rev Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford; the Right Rev Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter; the Right Rev Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford; the Right Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich; the Right Rev Paul Williams, Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham

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Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
19 days ago

It would help to further discussion if their Lordships were similarly to publish their views on the policy in force in France for the provision of asylum to the asylum seekers (I believe that very few of them are fleeing from claimed persecution by France); and their views on an acceptable level of inward migration into the UK.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
19 days ago

At least one of their number has already stated that it is not their job to provide alternative solutions.

Stephen King
Stephen King
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
18 days ago

Maybe it isn’t the bishops’ job to provide alternative solutions, but whilst in any situation it is very easy to criticise, criticims accompanied by constructive proposals carry more weight than do those which merely let off steam.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Stephen King
17 days ago

Yes I think this kind of contribution is easy to make, but does not enhance their standing in the Lords. I’d rather hear their views on whether the ECHR should determine UK policies.

Maud Colthwaite
Maud Colthwaite
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
16 days ago

Indeed, it might be an opportune moment to bring forward the proposed British bill of rights. And it isn’t as though the UK were the only country seeking to “outsource” the problem. The EU pays Turkey to keep millions of Syrian refugees from entering the bloc.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
16 days ago

I should add, as an aside, that using the Ukrainian war as ‘cover’, Turkey has recently launched a major offensive against the Kurds in Syria, evidently aimed at the extirpation of Kurdish enclaves within an area of northern Syria that Turkey seems to want to function as a ‘cordon sanitaire’. Whether that will amount to ‘ethnic cleansing’ remains to be seen, but there is a not insignificant possibility of such an outcome, given the ‘form’ of the Turkish military in south-east Turkey. Naturally, this has scarcely been reported in the Anglophone media (many of whom are incompetent and/or are preoccupied… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
19 days ago

Why would their lordships – even at their most imperial – comment on domestic French affairs? And how would ‘their views on an acceptable level of inward migration’ make an immoral policy moral?

Maud Colthwaite
Maud Colthwaite
Reply to  Allan Sheath
16 days ago

Because you can’t make a coherent moral argument if you ignore the fact that they are making dangerous sea crossings, aided and abetted by criminal gangs which the French authorities have largely turned a blind eye to. If they were genuine asylum seekers they would seek asylum in the country where they had arrived. Of course we have a duty to those arriving via legal routes and have a proud record of welcoming those fleeing persecution and war – e.g. from Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine. The numbers arriving have not varied much over the last 15 years or so.… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
16 days ago

I am not ignoring the fact that they are making dangerous sea crossings (although I suspect the Government’s concern for their safety might have more to do with a wounded PM needing to throw some red meat to his right wing).

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
19 days ago

Good on the Bishops! This is where I hope that they can make a difference and bring a touch of OT prophetic challenge to the government’s abhorrent policy.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
19 days ago

But haven’t they come rather late in the day on this?

Homeless Anglican
Homeless Anglican
Reply to  Dave
19 days ago

OMG Dave! Please! They have done well here. Credit where credit is due or are we going to be so graceless that we cant applaud and affirm when the bishops have done well.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
17 days ago

I’m sorry if my comment upsets you. They have done OK – at last. Other religious leaders have spoken up much earlier on this publicly and in the correspondence letters of the papers. They have sent a letter on the very day a deportation was about to take place…

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Dave
19 days ago

The Bishop of Manchester said he’d spoken against this appalling policy in the House of Lords weeks ago. Other bishops have been equally critical for many weeks.

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
19 days ago

Ah, it makes me feel quite nostalgic for “Faith in the City”, for those of us with longish memories.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Homeless Anglican
18 days ago

They have done the right thing and deserve credit for doing so. I suspect some were reluctant so I am unsurprised it only got done at the 11th hour. But it was done, and that is what matters

Last edited 18 days ago by Kate
Dave
Dave
Reply to  Kate
17 days ago

Perhaps. Personally I think it is relevant and important to say that this could and should have been done sooner if it was to have an effect on the individuals facing deportation.

Ben R
Ben R
Reply to  Dave
17 days ago

Well, it was condemned in the ABC’s Easter sermon, and in public letter to the Home Secretary from the Bishop of Chelmsford when Rwanda deal was first announced, and spoken (and voted) against at every stage of the Nationality and Borders Bill (going back months). So not sure how much more and earlier you wanted?

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Ben R
17 days ago

I would have expected the letter in the Times, quite simply, to have come out as soon as the policy was announced so that it could have informed the public and parliamentary debate. Why couldn’t it have done?

I don’t think a public letter from the Bishop of Chelmsford, or the words of Welby’s Easter sermon (neither of which as it happens I knew of) would have had quite as much impact as this letter written more early and not after the matter had been sewn up and people were in the airport lounge (metaphorically) waiting to be deported.

Maud Colthwaite
Maud Colthwaite
Reply to  Ben R
17 days ago

He ruined his Easter address by turning it into a party political broadcast. It is frankly absurd to claim (as some do) that this was about speaking truth to power. The Lords Spiritual are members of an influential and exclusive elite. They live in grace and favour palaces with an entourage of servants, are guaranteed a stipend and pension derived from a ten billion pound fund, and have an automatic right to air their views in parliament. By not offering any alternatives to Priti Patel’s scheme, they are merely grandstanding and making a virtue of their righteousness (cf. Matt. 6)

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
15 days ago

Indeed!!….and retire to a terraced house too!

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
15 days ago

So refreshing to hear an Easter address which grasped the nettle of social justice rather than anodyne church-speak and toothless pious platitude from the Lambeth Palacre kitchen table. Well done +Justin.

Father David
18 days ago

Unanimity among the Church of England Bishops – is this a first? If so, good on their Lordships.

John Bunyan
John Bunyan
Reply to  Father David
18 days ago

What is the English bishops’ alternative ? (And of course they do not speak for all those who are C.of E.) Our Australian policy is not perfect : none can be, but on the whole it works well although our foreign aid is far lower than it should be, and I guess the taxes in some form or another that among other things are needed to bring that about are also too low. (By the way, it is worth reading about today’s Rwanda in today’s London Telegraph.)

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Father David
17 days ago

It would be helpful if the Lords Spiritual used their new found unity to deal with acute issues within the Church, with huge missional consequences if they don’t. The letter to The Times was fine, but it did rather remind me of the many ‘motherhood and apple pie’ motions often debated in General Synod.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Anthony Archer
16 days ago

I think that’s the most perceptive comment in this thread – and one taken up more fully by Rosie Harper writing for ViaMedia. Inclusion means welcoming all groups, not picking and choosing.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
18 days ago

Their Lordships make the following statements Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal That seems to be incorrect, given that there have been appeals to the High Court, the Appeal Court and the ECHR. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim The Home Office state that their claims have been considered to the point of deciding whether or not they have arrived from a country where they could already have claimed asylum: that would render their claim invalid. That is not “no consideration”, it is consideration followed by rejection. Some of the other… Read more »

Maud Colthwaite
Maud Colthwaite
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
17 days ago

You are quite right. They have succumbed to stereotypical views about Rwanda. Why should the fifth largest economy in the world give automatic asylum to large swathes of fit young men who have jumped ahead of the queue, thus depriving those in refugee camps who are seeking the same by legal routes? Rwanda has entered into an innovate agreement with the UK to try and break the economic model of criminal human traffickers, and to give the migrants a chance to contribute to building their own economy. What is immoral about that?

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
16 days ago

The underlying problem is that the Government has made legally claiming asylum so difficult that those who can try another way do so.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Kate
15 days ago

It has always been difficult to claim asylum, as I know from having helped a claimant in the past. I think what Kate refers to here is that the Government has made it very difficult to succeed in claiming asylum for people who have already reached a country in which they have a legitimate claim. In this particular case, we’re talking about France. I find it hard to understand why people are happy for refugees who have safely arrived in France to decline to claim asylum there, and indeed happy to see them to place themselves in the hands of… Read more »

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Maud Colthwaite
14 days ago

Smacks of transportation to Australia?

Peter
Peter
17 days ago

People obviously have a legal and moral right to seek asylum. To that extent the Bishops affirm a moral position which is a good thing. However, I cannot see how an argument can be constructed that everybody has a right to select the Country in which they wish to seek asylum. How can that possibly be a moral claim ? Universal outrage is all very well, but there is a genuine problem. Very large numbers of physically fit young men are deciding to select the UK as their chosen destination to seek asylum. We are, unavoidably, complicit in what is… Read more »

Last edited 17 days ago by Peter
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