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Rwanda plan ‘morally unacceptable’ says Bishop of Liverpool, after Court of Appeal rules it unlawful

30 June 2023

PA Video/Alamy

Screen grab taken from a live broadcast from the Court of Appeal, yesterday. (Seated top, left to right): Sir Geoffrey Vos; the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett; Lord Justice Underhill

Screen grab taken from a live broadcast from the Court of Appeal, yesterday. (Seated top, left to right): Sir Geoffrey...

THE Bishop of Liverpool, Dr John Perumbalath, has joined charities and campaigning groups in decrying the Illegal Migration Bill, after the Government’s plans suffered a setback in the Court of Appeal.

On Thursday, the Court ruled unlawful one of the Bill’s proposals: the sending to Rwanda of asylum-seekers who have arrived in the UK by “irregular means”. The judges concluded that Rwanda was not, as the Government has asserted, a “safe country”, and that there was a risk that some refugees would be denied asylum in Rwanda and deported to their home countries, where they would be at risk of persecution.

The Court overturned the High Court’s December ruling (News, 23 December); but the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, indicated that the Government would seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The following morning, Dr Perumbalath, who chairs the Churches Refugee Network for Britain and Ireland, released a statement in partnership with the campaigning group Freedom from Torture, which said that the Bill was “morally unacceptable”.

He described the proposal to pay Rwanda to take asylum-seekers as a “cash for humans”. A “fair and effective asylum system” would be one that “welcomes those who need sanctuary, respects their dignity and embodies both compassion and justice”, he said.

The plans “risk torture survivors being returned to the very torturers from whom they fled. I stand in solidarity with refugees and call on the Government to abandon the politics of hate and instead rebuild a humane and efficient asylum system that enables refugees to heal in the safety of our communities.”

Also on Friday morning, the head of campaigns at the Roman Catholic aid agency CAFOD, Aisha Dodwell, said that, if passed, the new law would be a “stain on the country’s reputation”.

She continued: “Pope Francis has urged world leaders to build bridges, not walls, and to welcome, protect, and integrate people without distinction. But the Illegal Migration Bill represents everything Pope Francis asks us not to be, which is why we are urging Catholics to speak out against the Bill and show we are a country that welcomes people who need our help.”

CAFOD is asking supporters to write to their MPs to oppose the Bill, and is encouraging people to indicate their commitment by signing up online.

In his Easter sermon last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury described the proposals as the “opposite of the nature of God” (News, 18 April 2022).

The Church of Scotland has welcomed the Court of Appeal’s ruling. On Thursday, the vice-convener of the Faith Action Programme Leadership Team, Emma Jackson, said: “The Church has consistently argued that the plans were unacceptable in the way they treated individuals, removing their rights and robbed them of their humanity.

“The UK Government must now urgently rethink its Illegal Migration Bill and its whole approach to reforming the broken asylum system.”

In the House of Lords, several bishops have proposed amendments to the Bill, including Archbishop Welby (News, 24 May) and the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler (News, 12 June).

Others to speak against the Bill in Parliament include the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, and the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani.

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