The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has used his Easter sermon to condemn the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as “the opposite of the nature of God”.
He said there were serious ethical questions in the policy and it could not “carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values”.
“The details are for politics. The principle must stand the judgment of God, and it cannot. It cannot carry the weight of resurrection justice, of life conquering death. It cannot carry the weight of the resurrection that was first to the least valued, for it privileges the rich and strong.
“..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”.
The government has announced that people judged to have entered Britain unlawfully since 1 January 2022 may be sent to Rwanda on a one way ticket, where they will be permitted to apply for asylum.
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, seconded the criticism. Speaking on the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4, he said he was appalled at the proposal. “It is unethical”, he said. “We must crack down on people traffickers but not crack down on the people who are being trafficked”.
He thought the government was out of step with people in this country, who had shown incredible generosity to Ukrainian refugees.
“We need to understand that people coming from Syria and Yemen are in just as much need and should be treated with the same dignity.
“I cannot believe that somebody who has gone through so much can be treated in this way”, adding that there were questions about the proposal’s legality .
Asked to comment further on the partygate scandal, where the prime minister and chancellor were fined for attending a party during lockdown, he said “Trust in public life has broken down as a result of this”.
The Rwanda plans have outraged opposition parties and charities working with refugees. But the Home Secretary Priti Patel said the plan was a world class model which other countries such as Denmark will follow.