30 January 2024, The Tablet

Archbishop Welby attacks Rwanda Bill in House of Lords

“In the Christian tradition, we are told to welcome the stranger,” said Archbishop Welby.

Archbishop Welby attacks Rwanda Bill in House of Lords

The Archbishop of Canterbury is among those who criticised the Rwanda Bill in the House of Lords
Maria Grazia Picciarella / Alamy

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has attacked the government’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as “damaging” for the UK’s reputation, for asylum seekers, for the rule of law and for the nation’s unity. “We can as a nation do better than this Bill,” he told the House of Lords on Monday during a second reading of the government’s Rwanda Bill.

“In the Christian tradition, we are told to welcome the stranger,” he said. He called for a “wider strategy on refugee policy which involves international cooperation and equips us for far greater migration flows, perhaps ten times greater in the coming decades, as a result of conflict and climate change and poverty”.

The Rwanda Bill passed its second reading. There is a convention for the unelected chamber not to create barriers to legislation from elected MPs at this stage. However, Church leaders were among those presenting strong criticism. Peers have indicated they will try to strip out key powers as the bill progresses.

“We are confronted, once again, with the brazen pursuit of a policy that will wreak further destruction on the lives of people who have already lost everything.”

Read Dr Sophie Cartwright of JRS UK on the Rwanda Bill.

Bishop of Durham Paul Butler told peers: “I echo the belief we should not outsource our moral and legal responsibilities to refugees and asylum seekers. They are human beings, each with value and deserving of dignity and we need solutions where people are provided with adequate support and opportunities to rebuild their lives.” 

Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly said: “It is an odd situation that we find ourselves in when it feels necessary to state in your lordships’ house that the government should obey the law, yet the minister has stated on the face of the Bill that he is unable to say that the measures within it are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.”

In advance of the debate, a coalition of more than 260 charities and expert organisations working to protect human rights issued a joint statement calling on peers to reject the UK government’s Rwanda Bill. These included Caritas Cardiff, Caritas Shrewsbury, National Board of Catholic Women, Jesuit Refugee Service UK and others. “The Rwanda Bill undermines the principle that human rights are universal – that they apply to all of us, regardless of where we are from,” they said.

JRS UK director Sarah Teather, said: “If enacted, the Rwanda scheme will destroy the lives of people who have already lost everything. For them, we continue to oppose this Bill and the Rwanda scheme as a whole.” 

Meanwhile, almost 400 migrants made the perilous crossing across the English Channel in small boats last weekend, according to official Home Office statistics. The crossings at the weekend take the provisional total for the number of migrants arriving via small boat in 2024 so far to 1,057.



  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99