Church of England leaders have said the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is an ‘immoral policy which brings shame to Britain’ – with the first flight due to leave today.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York – along with 23 other bishops – have written a letter to The Times saying no attempt has been made to “understand the plight” of those affected.
After two failed legal challenges, a plane is due to depart later for the Rwandan capital, Kigali, but it is unclear how many asylum seekers will be on board.
Their letter said: “Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should put us to shame as a nation.
“The shame is ours, as our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have done for centuries.”
Faith leaders have called for combating ‘evil trafficking’ by providing safe routes for refugees trying to reach the UK, adding: ‘Deportations and the potential forcible return of asylum seekers to their countries of origin are not the solution”.
It occurs a few days after the The Prince of Wales called Tory politics ‘appalling’and after Imam Qari Asim, the chief imam of the Makkah Mosque in Leeds, said it ‘challenges our human conscience and compels us to uphold human dignity’.
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The Archbishop of Wales and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster have also criticized the policy, as have charities, human rights groups and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Three other legal challenges are due to be heard in the High Court on Tuesday. These are brought by people who risk being deported on the first flight.
The government said it was aimed at deterring people from doing dangerous crossings of the English Channel from France in small, fragile boats driven by smugglers.
A government spokesperson said: “We welcome the court’s decision in our favour, and we will now continue to advance our global partnership on migration, which will help prevent loss of life and break the business model of dastardly smugglers.
“Rwanda is a safe country and has already been recognized for providing a safe haven for refugees – we will not be deterred in carrying out our plans to fix the broken asylum system which will ultimately save lives. .”
Last year more than 28,000 people crossed the English Channel in small boats – more than three times the number seen in 2020.
More than half were Iranian or Iraqi, with people from Eritrea and Syria also making the crossings, according to Interior Ministry figures.