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Archbishop Welby recruits faith leaders for another tilt at the Illegal Migration Bill

05 July 2023

Parliament TV

Archbishop Welby addresses the Lords last month

Archbishop Welby addresses the Lords last month

THE Archbishops of Canterbury and York have implored the Government to adopt a long-term strategy for tackling the refugee crisis and human trafficking, saying that the Illegal Migration Bill fails to do so while neglecting to protect the vulnerable.

In anticipation of the final day of the Report Stage of the Bill, due to be debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon, the Archbishops, together with the Bishop of Durham and other UK faith leaders, wrote a joint letter to The Times, published on Wednesday morning.

Stating that faith communities wish to “build for the common good”, it repeats recent criticism of the Bill in its current form made by church leaders and others, saying that it “falls short of our obligation towards the most vulnerable. It fails to meet the basic test of an evidence-based and workable policy. We need an alternative approach that reflects our country’s history, values, and responsibility.”

Archbishop Welby was due to speak to an amendment late on Wednesday afternoon, which, the letter says, calls for a “ten-year strategy, collaborating internationally to stop the boats here and globally, and tackle refugee crises and human trafficking.

“The UK should take a lead in setting out a just, compassionate approach, ensuring that people seeking sanctuary are protected, claims decided quickly and justly, human traffickers are punished, and the root causes of mass migration are properly addressed.”

His previous amendment attempting a long-term strategy along similar lines was withdrawn after failing to gain government support (News, 16 June).

Several other amendments proposed and supported by bishops were agreed and carried on Monday afternoon, however, despite government opposition.

Speaking before the debate on Wednesday, Archbishop Welby said: “As faith leaders we hold different beliefs on many things, but we are united in our concern for people seeking sanctuary. Britain must have an asylum system based on justice and compassion.

“We are standing together to call on the Government to honour our obligations to the world’s most vulnerable people — and play our part in tackling a global crisis that is only set to worsen in the coming years, as millions more people around the world are forced to flee their homes. The amendment I have tabled to the Illegal Migration Bill is intended to focus our efforts on that goal.”

The other signatories of the Times letter, besides the two Archbishops and the Bishop of Durham, are: Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, Territorial Commander of the Salvation Army; Rabbis Charley Baginsky and Josh Levy, CEOs of Progressive Judaism; Trupti Patel, president of the Hindu Forum of Britain; Lord Singh of Wimbledon, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations UK; Qari Asim, Senior Imam, Makkah Mosque, Leeds; and Dr Sayed Razawi, Chief Imam (Scotland), director-general of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.

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