The Archbishops of Canterbury and York say the government's decision to deport failed asylum seekers to Rwanda “shames Britain”.
They're among 25 bishops who sit in the House of Lords who have written a letter to The Times condemning the policy, as the first plane is set to leave for Rwanda today.
In the letter published Tuesday morning, the Lords Spiritual who make up the senior leadership of the Church of England, denounced plans to deport refugees to Rwanda as an “immoral policy that shames Britain.
"Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.
“The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries.
“Deportations, and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries, are not the way.”
There have been some legal challenges to try to stop the first plane leaving - even up until Monday campaigners were arguing that there should be a delay until after a full hearing next month on whether the policy is lawful. Judges have ruled it can go ahead and around eight people are believed to be on the list, although dozens more who were due to go have won their appeals. Tuesday’s flight is due to be the first in a five-year trial.
The government says the policy of deportation to Rwanda will discourage others from crossing the English Channel and help stop the trade in human trafficking and people smuggling. They said it will deter people from making the dangerous crossing. Arrivals to Rwanda will be given accommodation and support while the Rwandan government considers their application. If they’re successful they will be permitted to stay there with up to five years access to education and support.
It’s not the first time the government’s policy has been criticised by senior church leaders. In April, the Archbishop of Canterbury Most Rev Justin Welby described the plan as "the opposite of the nature of God". But Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit back at him saying the church had been more critical of the Rwanda policy than of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Archbishop of Wales, Most Rev Andy John and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols have also been critical.
A Government spokesperson said: "Our world-leading partnership with Rwanda will see those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK relocated there to have their claims considered and rebuild their lives.
"There is no one single solution to the global migration crisis, but doing nothing is not an option and this partnership will help break the business model of criminal gangs and prevent loss of life.
"Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers and we are confident the agreement is fully compliant with all national and international law."