15 November 2023, The Tablet

Catholic charities and bishops welcome Supreme Court Rwanda decision

Catholic charities and bishops welcome Supreme Court Rwanda decision

A protester outside the Supreme Court with a placard against deportation of migrants.
amer ghazzal/Alamy Live News

The Jesuit Refugee Service and Cafod are among those who have welcomed today’s Supreme Court decision against government plans to transfer people seeking asylum to Rwanda.

JRS UK also added its voice to those now calling for the proposal to be permanently scrapped.  

Sarah Teather, director of JRS UK, said: “JRS UK has consistently opposed this cruel and unworkable policy. We now call for the government to abandon it. Forcibly removing people to Rwanda would achieve nothing except to violate their basic rights, trash the UK’s reputation on the international stage, and exacerbate fear and uncertainty among those seeking sanctuary here." 

JRS UK has directly supported more than 20 people, including survivors of torture, facing removal to Rwanda.

“The threat of removal is felt far more widely. Through our accompaniment of refugees, we understand the human impact of this policy and the profound dangers it presents to people in search of safety,” said Teather.  

She added: “While this policy has been ruled unlawful, the profound trauma it caused remains, alongside a raft of other hostile policies devastating the lives of refugee friends we accompany. We will continue to advocate for a fairer asylum system that recognises our responsibility to offer sanctuary and builds upon the welcome extended by so many people and communities throughout the UK. We urge people to get involved and help us to advocate for a more compassionate system.” 

Aisha Dodwell, head of campaigns for Cafod, the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said: “Today's ruling makes clear that we have a moral and legal duty to care for migrants and refugees. The Rwanda plan was a cruel attempt to turn away people who are seeking protection.  

“We urgently need to transform the way migrants are treated. In the absence of safe and legal routes, thousands of people die each year as they are forced to take dangerous journeys to reach safety.  

“As Pope Francis tells us, we must welcome people without prejudice and focus on building bridges and not walls.”  

Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead bishop for migrants and fefugees for the Bishops’ Conference, welcomed the ruling.

“I am greatly relieved that the proposal to send those seeking asylum to Rwanda has been ruled unlawful. This was a policy that ignored the innate human dignity of those seeking sanctuary. While today’s Supreme Court ruling is to be welcomed, we will continue to advocate for an immigration system that places the human person at its centre. Refugees are human beings made in the image and likeness of God, not a political problem to be solved.

“It is important to recognise the wonderful work of Catholic charities and civil society organisations that do so much to help migrants and refugees when they come to the UK. We will continue to pray for those who are on the move, as well as for the government that it will respect this ruling and respond to the needs of migrants and asylum seekers in a way that fully upholds their human dignity.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The Government’s Rwanda policy isn’t just cruel, callous and morally reprehensible, the Supreme Court has today confirmed its unlawful too.

“The fact that the Government came up with the idea of sending people fleeing violence and persecution to a country thousands of miles away is shameful. It goes against everything we stand for as a nation.

“The Government must now stop playing on people’s fears for short term political gain, treat asylum seekers with dignity, reduce the massive backlog of asylum claims and work constructively with allies  to stop the dangerous people-trafficking gangs.”

The Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, also welcomed the Supreme Court’s judgement.

They have determined that the government's plan to deport migrants to Rwanda is unlawful. I have argued previously that this policy was also immoral and indefensible and hope the government will now accept the judgement of the court.”

The Rwanda government issued a statement saying it took issue with the contention that Rwanda is not a safe country to deport migrants to. 

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