The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched stinging criticisms of the government’s Illegal Migration Bill – saying it has “too many problems for one speech”.
Archbishop Justin Welby was speaking as the House of Lords begins debating the legislation, which the government wants to use to prevent people arriving in the UK by non-traditional means from claiming asylum.
The archbishop added he does not think the bill will even “temporarily stop the boats”, and that it does not take into account global factors.
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“It is isolationist, it is morally unacceptable and politically impractical to let the poorest countries deal with the crisis alone and cut our international aid,” he added.
The bill also looks to limit the ability of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to prevent the deportation of asylum seekers.
The archbishop was not the only member of the House of Lords to criticise the bill, with Labour and Liberal Democrat peers also voicing strong opposition.
Labour’s criticism included quoting former Theresa May – who was present for the debate – when she said the Illegal Migration Bill will drive a “coach and horses through the Modern Slavery Act”.
But there was support for the government’s plan from Lord Howard, the former Tory Party leader, and former Tory cabinet minister Lord Forsyth.
Close to 100 peers were scheduled to speak with around six minutes allowed per person.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman today urged the Lords to “back the bill so we can get on with stopping the boats”.
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Among the criticisms was the government’s attitude to international conventions and agreements – including the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Archbishop Welby said: “The existing global convention and agreements need updating in response to the crises we face today.
“While now inadequate, what those conventions offer is a baseline from which to build a globally shared understanding of what protection must be given to refugees.
“They are not inconvenient obstructions to get round by any legislative means necessary.”
It is not the first time the most senior member of the clergy in the Anglican Church has criticised government migration policy.
The archbishop made an intervention in the Lords last December, saying that “control has become cruelty” in the migration system – adding that the country needs a system “which balances effective, accurate and clear control with compassion and dignity, a system which is based in our history and proper moral responsibilities”.
Archbishop Welby also branded the Rwanda deportation scheme “opposite the nature of God” just over a year ago after it was announced by the Boris Johnson administration.
During today’s speech, he called for some intervention – but not in the current form.
“We need a bill to reform migration. We need a bill to stop the boats. We need a bill to destroy the evil tribe of traffickers. The tragedy is that without much change, this is not that bill,” he said.
The Liberal Democrats are trying to block the bill today in the Lords, but both Labour and the archbishop say they will not support the motion as they believe it will lead to the government forcing through the legislation without the chance for the Lords to amend it.
While some amendments will be tabled today, the key votes are expected later this summer.
No one has yet been sent to Rwanda, with the Illegal Migration Bill aiming to make this easier and make legal challenges less likely to stick.
Another pillar of the plan is the hosting of people arriving in the UK at former military bases and on ships before they are ex-patriated.
One such vessel – the Bibby Stockholm barge – has just arrived in the UK for refurbishment, after which it will head to Portland on the Dorset coast, where it will host migrants.
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Jim Draper, the leader of Portland town council, told Sky News this morning that the authority “had sort of been promised some money” by the government, but had not seen any of it yet.
Mr Draper said his “small council on the south coast can’t really stand up to the might of the Home Office”, even with threats of legal action made by their own – Tory – MP, Richard Drax.