The archbishop cited forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimating that the climate crisis alone would lead to at least 800 million more refugees a year by 2050…reports Asian Lite News
The archbishop of Canterbury has clashed with ministers after branding the government’s flagship illegal migration bill as “morally unacceptable” legislation that will “damage the UK’s interests and reputation at home and abroad”.
In a withering attack upon Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman’s plan, Justin Welby said it would not fulfil the prime minister’s pledge to “stop the boats”, ignored the key causes of the movement of refugees, and could break the system of international cooperation that promised to help those fleeing war, famine and conflict.
“[The bill] is isolationist, it is morally unacceptable and politically impractical to let the poorest countries deal with it alone and cut our international aid,” he said. “This is an attempt at a short-term fix. It risks great damage to the UK’s interests and reputation at home and abroad, let alone the interests of those in need of protection or the nations who together face this challenge.”
Jolted into a response, Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said the most senior cleric in the Church of England was “wrong” and defended the bill’s aim of criminalising, detaining and removing people who arrive in the UK in small boats to their home country or a third country such as Rwanda.
In his first intervention during a House of Lords debate on the bill, Welby said it did not address the two key causes of international migration: the climate crisis and war.
The archbishop cited forecasts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimating that the climate crisis alone would lead to at least 800 million more refugees a year by 2050.
“Even if this bill succeeds in temporarily stopping the boats – and I don’t think it will – it won’t stop conflict or climate change,” he said.
The bill could lead to the breakdown of the international pledge to aid refugees, he said. “The UNHCR has warned that it could lead to the collapse of the international system to protect refugees. Is that what we want the United Kingdom’s contribution to be in our leadership?” he said.
“It ignores the reality that migration must be engaged with at source as well as in the Channel,” he said.
He acknowledged that reforms to immigration laws were needed to “destroy the evil tribe of traffickers” facilitating the small boat crossings. But, he said: “The tragedy is that without much change, this is not that bill.”
The bill instead treated people-smugglers as “rationally trained economic actors and not appalling criminals”, he said, adding that the government should not delay setting up “safe and legal routes” for people seeking asylum in the UK. “There must be safe, legal routes put in place as soon as illegal or unsafe routes begin to be attacked. We cannot wait for the years that will take place before that happens.”
Welby said he planned to table amendments to the bill at committee stage, which would include plans that he said were missing in the current bill to combat people-traffickers and to update the 1951 UN refugee convention.