Faith leaders in call for ‘just’ and ‘compassionate’ asylum policy

In a letter to The Times newspaper, faith leaders warn the draft legislation ‘falls short of our obligation to the most vulnerable’.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York have renewed calls for the Government to back changes to its Illegal Migration Bill to ensure “just” and “compassionate” asylum policy.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, faith leaders warn the draft legislation to stop small boat crossings to the UK “falls short of our obligation to the most vulnerable”.

The intervention comes ahead of the report stage debate on the Bill later on Wednesday in the House of Lords, where it has already been dealt a further blow by peers inflicting 11 defeats.

The Most Rev Justin Welby, who has tabled two amendments to the draft legislation which seek to force ministers to implement long-term plans for combating the refugee crisis and human trafficking, will be among speakers in the upper chamber.

He has proposed the development of “10-year strategies” for both issues and for the Government to engage in collaboration with signatories to the Refugee Convention or any other international agreement on the rights of refugees.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Rabbi Josh Levy, Senior Imam Qari Asim, Chief Imam Dr Sayed Razawi, Hindu Forum of Britain president Trupti Patel, Network of Sikh Organisations director Lord Singh, Bishop of Durham Paul Butler and Territorial Commander of the Salvation Army Commissioner Anthony Cotterill have also signed the letter.

It says: “As faith leaders, we represent people and communities whose belief, worship and action point us towards the kind of society we wish to build for the common good.

“The Illegal Migration Bill 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.

“With more than 100 million people displaced around the world, this crisis will not be solved without significant collective endeavour.

“To improve the Bill, we support an amendment requiring the government to produce 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.”

Cumulative arrivals by people crossing the English Channel in small boats
(PA Graphics)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been an outspoken critic of the Illegal Migration Bill during its bruising passage through Parliament, having previously described it as “morally unacceptable” and “politically impractical”.

The Bill aims to ensure those who arrive in the UK without Government permission will be detained and promptly removed, either to their home country or a third country.

The plan to send migrants to Rwanda was dealt another blow recently after the Court of Appeal found it was unlawful, although the Government intends to challenge this ruling.

Ministers say action is needed to stop people making the dangerous sea crossing but critics argue the draft legislation is unworkable.

The Lords has voted against parts of the Bill that would weaken detention limits for children and pregnant women in a series of amendments.

They can be overturned when the Bill goes back to the House of Commons, where – unlike in the Lords – the Government has a majority.

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