LONDON ( Associated Press) – The leader of the Anglican Church has strongly criticized the British government’s plan to put some refugees on one-way flights to Rwanda, saying that “sub-contracting our responsibilities” to refugees stands up to God’s scrutiny. Not possible .
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, made an unusually direct political intervention in his Easter Sunday sermon, saying that there are “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas.”
“For a country like Rwanda, even sub-contracting our responsibilities is contrary to the nature of God, who himself has taken responsibility for our failures,” he said.
Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral in south-east England, Welby said that “details are for politics and politicians, doctrine must stand at the judgment of God – and it cannot.”
Britain and Rwanda announced on Thursday that they have reached an agreement that will allow some people to arrive in the UK on trucks or in small boats as stowaways sent to the 4,000-mile (6,400-km) East African country where their asylum claims will be processed. and, if successful, they will remain in Rwanda.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government says the plan would discourage people from making dangerous attempts to cross the English Channel, and put people-smuggling gangs out of business. Last year more than 28,000 migrants entered the UK across the channel, up from 8,500 in 2020. Dozens of people, including 27 people, were killed when a boat capsized in November.
Refugee and human rights groups called the plan inhumane, impractical and a waste of taxpayer money. The UN refugee agency said it was “contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.”
Another senior Anglican cleric, Archbishop Stephen Cottrell of York, called the Rwanda plan “disappointing and disturbing”.
“After all, there is no such thing as an illegal asylum-seeker,” he said in an Eastern sermon at York Minster Cathedral in northern England. “It is the people who exploit them that we need to crack down on them, not that our sisters and brothers need them.”
The deal – for which the UK has made an advance payment of 120 million pounds ($158 million) to Rwanda – leaves many questions unanswered, including its final cost and how the participants will be chosen. The UK says children and families with children will not be deported to Rwanda.
Senior civil servants in the Home Office, the government department responsible for immigration policy, expressed concerns about the plan, but Home Secretary Priti Patel rejected it.
The Home Office said in a statement that Britain had settled hundreds of thousands of refugees around the world.
“However, the world is facing a global migration crisis on an unprecedented scale and change is needed to stop smugglers putting people’s lives at risk and fix the broken global asylum system,” it said.
Alf Dubs, a Labor Party member of the House of Lords who came to Britain as a child refugee from the Nazis in 1939, said the plan was a “violation of the 1951 Geneva Conventions on Refugees”. He said the upper house of Parliament, Lords, would challenge the move.
Johnson acknowledged Thursday that the plan would be challenged in court by what he called “politically motivated lawyers” to “frustrate the government”.
Political opponents accused Johnson of using a headline-grabbing policy to divert attention from his political troubles. Johnson is resisting calls to resign after he was fined by police for attending a party in his office in 2020 that broke coronavirus lockdown rules.
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