Archbishop of Canterbury hits out at Rwanda asylum scheme, saying it is ungodly

Politics

The government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is “opposite the nature of God”, the Archbishop of Canterbury will say.

Reverend Justin Welby will use his Easter Sunday sermon to criticise the government scheme that will see refugees who reach the UK through illegal routes deported to Rwanda.

He is expected to say that the policy is un-Christian and raises “serious ethical questions”.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke from Kew Gardens in London.
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The Most Reverend Justin Welby says the scheme cannot ‘stand the judgment of God’

“The details are for politics,” he will say. “The principle must stand the judgment of God, and it cannot.

“It cannot carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values, because sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta, signed a "world-first" migration and economic development partnership in the East African nation's capital city Kigali, on Thursday. Picture date: Thursday April 14, 2022.
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Home Secretary Priti Patel signs the agreement with Rwanda’s minister for foreign affairs

Read more: Why are migrants being sent to Rwanda and how will it work?
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The archbishop’s unexpected intervention comes after criticism for the scheme from Labour politicians, human rights groups and the United Nations.

More on Migrant Crossings

The prime minister and home secretary have defended the partnership, while Conservative MPs have broadly backed the plans.

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Minister defends Rwanda plan

It emerged on Friday that Home Secretary Priti Patel had to issue a ministerial direction over the plan, which means she overruled objections from senior civil servants within her department.

The first migrants are expected to be sent to Rwanda on a chartered flight in May, however, it could be delayed with the government anticipating legal challenges against the partnership.

Under the plans, approved refugees will have to stay in Rwanda, rather than return to the UK, and those who are rejected by the Rwandan government will be deported.

Responding to the archbishop’s criticisms, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a proud history of supporting those in need of protection and our resettlement programmes have provided safe and legal routes to better futures for hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.

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A look at the Rwanda holding centres

“However, the world is facing a global migration crisis on an unprecedented scale and change is needed to prevent vile people smugglers putting people’s lives at risk and to fix the broken global asylum system.

“Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers.

“Under this agreement, they will process claims in accordance with the UN Refugee Convention, national and international human rights laws.”

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