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House of Lords 2021 / Photography by Roger Harris
UK News

'A wedge to divide people': Justin Welby hits out at migration proposals as he tables amendments

by Sophie Drew

The Archbishop of Canterbury has repeated his plea to the UK government, urging them to rethink the controversial Illegal Migration Bill and accusing leaders of using immigration policy as a ‘wedge to divide people’.

The bill could see all asylum seekers deported if they enter the country via illegal means, like crossing the English Channel in small boats.

They would either be forced to return to their home country, or sent to a third-party country, likely Rwanda.

The proposals are a bid to crack down on people traffickers abusing migrants seeking asylum in the UK, or for the purposes of human slavery.

Most Rev Justin Welby has repeatedly condemned the bill and the Rwanda scheme.

Over the last year, he’s accused the government of “shirking their responsibilities” to vulnerable people, should the plans be implemented.

Last month, the court of appeal ruled it was unlawful to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Archbishop Justin said: “It is impossible to imagine that we can solve a problem of this kind by taking short-term view after short-term view.

“It is essential that the solutions, as we go forward, bring together the whole of politics, all sides of both Houses, and unite our country instead of using this as a wedge issue to divide things.

“This is a moment of reconciliation and an opportunity for profound long-term thought.

The 67-year-old tabled a further amendment to the Illegal Migration Bill, calling on the Government to adopt a long-term strategy to tackle the refugee crisis and human trafficking.

He continued: “When this amendment was tabled in its previous form last week, it produced considerable reconciliation and unity across the House. It was agreed that this is a massive, international issue on a generational basis and that tackling it needs profound thinking on a long-term basis.

“Legislation and strategy must be fitted to the problem, not the problem to the legislation. That is not how it works.”

He continued: “The 10-year strategy will enable the whole country, united, to understand where we are going, what the sacrifices are and how they will be mitigated.

“This is not a party-political issue but one in which we must work together: if we work separately, we will fall separately.”

Archbishop Justin gave four reasons for his plans for a 10-year strategy to combat the migrant crisis – “reconciliation over this issue, accountability for this and future governments, flexibility in strategy, and leadership in the world.”


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