Illegal Migration Bill: what did Archbishop of Canterbury say about asylum legislation in House of Lords?
Archbishop Justin Welby has said that Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s plans to ‘stop the boats’ has “too many problems for one speech”
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a scathing attack on the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, describing the proposed new legislation as “morally unacceptable”, “politically impractical”, and having “too many problems for one speech".
Speaking in the House of Lords, where Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s controversial plan to ‘stop the boats’ is being scrutinised, Archbishop Justin Welby warned that the bill represents a “dramatic” departure from the UK’s legal and moral obligations to asylum seekers - and risks “great damage” to the country’s reputation.
“I urge the government to reconsider much of the bill – which fails to live up to our history, our moral responsibility, and our political and international interests,” the Church of England’s most senior bishop said. He argued that the bill “fails utterly” to tackle modern slavery and people trafficking, and leaves dealing with the asylum crisis to the “poorest countries”.
He went on to say that the proposed legislation has “no sense at all” of the long-term global migration challenge, as it “ignores” the issues which compel people to seek asylum in the first place, such as climate change, war, and persecution.
Archbishop Welby added that while some of the existing global agreements on refugees, such as the 1951 Refugee Convention, have become outdated, “they are not inconvenient obstructions to get around by any legislative means necessary".
His damning criticism came as Home Secretary Braverman urged peers in the House of Lords not to stand in the way of the “will of the British people” by blocking her and the Prime Minister’s plan to ‘stop the boats’ - which will see asylum seekers who arrive in the UK ‘illegally’ swiftly detained and removed, either to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda.
The Illegal Migration Bill could also give ministers the power to ignore attempts from judges in the European Court of Human Rights to block migrant deportation flights - which is what happened to the first flight of asylum seekers meant to depart for Rwanda - and see protections for children and pregnant women removed, as an expert recently told NationalWorld.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Paddick was one of many to speak out against the proposed legislation, despite Braverman's request. He told the House of Lords that the bill “seeks to systematically deny human rights to a group of people desperately seeking sanctuary” - and is a “low point in the history of this government.”
“There is always talk of the pull factors for asylum seekers, but I want to talk about push factors,” he said. “Those being the intolerable conditions in their home countries that compel asylum seekers to find elsewhere to live. Even if they face poor conditions when they arrive in the UK, they do not have to worry about persecution or suffering.”
Lord Paddick also proposed a so-called fatal motion which would stop the bill in its tracks, but it is unlikely to pass as the Labour Party said it would not offer its support. Peer Lord Coaker said that although his party was against the bill, and the Lib Dem motion “sounds attractive”, it was not the best way to oppose it as it could backfire and deny the peers any chance to amend the bill.
Baron Murray, the immigration minister who introduced the bill’s reading to the House of Lords, told peers the government takes its “international treaty obligations incredibly seriously”. He argued that the legislation must be implemented to cut crossings from last year’s record of over 45,000, pointing out that the UK is spending £3 billion a year on asylum seekers and more than £6 million a day on hotel accommodation.
He ended by telling peers they live in a “welcoming, compassionate and generous nation” but the bill is a “necessary, urgent, and indeed compassionate response” to the immigration crisis facing the UK.
The Illegal Migration Bill forms a central part of the Prime Minister’s pledge to “stop the boats” crossing the English Channel, with Sunak describing the policy as “fair for those at home” and “for those who have a legitimate claim to asylum.”
Despite being shrouded in controversy, the bill recently passed in the House of Commons with a majority of 289 votes to 230. If the House of Lords approves it, it will be one step closer to being passed as a law.