The following article by the Most Rev Justin Welby, appeared in The Times newspaper on May 24 2023.
We must control our borders. We must stop the boats. We must have limits to those coming because we cannot take everyone. I said all this in the opening sentences of my speech in the House of Lords the week before last.
As the Illegal Migration Bill enters committee stage in the Lords, everyone agrees the status quo position on asylum fails. Those that arrive use dangerous means and face chaotic, ineffective treatment at tremendous cost, which creates discontent among those in the UK who feel their generosity is being exploited. We need a new approach that loves mercy and does justice, to use words from scripture.
During a debate on the Illegal Migration Bill on 24th May 2023, the Bishop of Chelmsford spoke in support of an amendment tabled by Lord Coaker that would exempt those cooperating with law enforcement from removal from the UK in instances of human trafficking:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I do not wish to delay the House for long, especially given the excellent speeches we have already heard delivered on this group, but I support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, about retrospection. I add my support, in particular, to the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and those other noble Lords who have tabled Amendment 11, on which we have already heard the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.
A succession of migration, public order and modern slavery Bills in recent years have drastically raised the length of sentences and the severity of punishments that can be brought to bear on people traffickers and smugglers. While this may look tough, it is difficult to say that it has had much impact; indeed, the entire purpose of this Bill is to try to put a stop to arrivals which have not, apparently, been impacted on at all by the deterrents that are already in place. Nor is this surprising, given the very low number of prosecutions and convictions for such offences. Regrettably, it seems that smuggling is a crime with enormous rewards but relatively little risk for the perpetrators. Instead, we seem to almost exclusively punish those who are smuggled, often in highly dangerous circumstances.
On 24th May 2023, during a debate on the Illegal Migration Bill, the Archbishop of Canterbury intervened during a speech by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots, raising a point of clarification on numbers of migrants the Bill was intended to apply to:
On 24th May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Illegal Migration Bill in its first day of Committee. The Bishop of Chelmsford spoke on the details of the bill concerning “safe and legal routes”, in support of two amendments:
amendment 4, tabled by Lord Paddick, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, Lord Etherton, and Baroness Chakrabarti, which would replace clause 1 of the bill with a requirement that bill not violate any international legal obligations
amendment 84, tabled by Lord Alton of Liverpool, aimed at ensuring compliance with international legislation against human trafficking
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I support Amendments 4 and 84; I also have a great deal of sympathy for Amendment 148. I declare an interest as vice-chair of the independent Commission on the Integration of Refugees. I have been listening with great interest to the expert points raised by particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, but also other noble Lords.
I am sure noble Lords will be aware that Clause 1, as it stands, is a narrative introduction that sets the scope and intent of the Bill as a whole. Crucially, it defines the purpose of the Bill as
“to prevent and deter unlawful migration, and in particular migration by unsafe and illegal routes”.
I am sure we can all sympathise with the desire to make the migration system thoroughly orderly and predictable in nature, but I question whether this is plausible and whether what it entails is indeed desirable, particularly if it cannot guarantee compatibility with those international treaties, as we have heard. The sort of circumstances of catastrophe and persecution that drive refugees do not tend to allow for orderly or safe departures. I know this from my own personal experience but also from having spoken to many asylum seekers and refugees over the years.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 17th May 2023:
The Lord Bishop Durham asked His Majesty’s Government whether a Child Rights Impact Assessment has been carried out for the Illegal Migration Bill to assess the impact it will have on children; if so, what was the outcome of the assessment; and if it has not yet been completed, when it will take place.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con, Home Office): We will publish a child’s rights impact assessment in respect of the Illegal Migration Bill in due course.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 16th May 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government when a child is under the care and accommodation of the Home Office, due to the Home Secretary’s duty to detain and remove under clause 2 of the Illegal Migration Bill, what international or domestic legislation the Home Office is required to meet.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con, Home Office): The duty to make arrangements for the removal of an illegal migrant who meets the conditions in clause 2 of the Illegal Migration Bill does not apply to unaccompanied children, although clause 3(2) of the Bill confers a power to remove them in the circumstances set out in clause 3(3).
On 10th May 2023, during a debate on the Illegal Migration Bill, the Bishop of Gloucester made a speech expressing concerns regarding the bill, with particular reference to the risks it would pose to women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking:
My Lords, it is a privilege to add my voice to this debate. I echo much of what has already been said, including by my friends the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. I will focus my remarks on the impact of this Bill on women, including victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence—all of it set, as you might expect, within my belief that every person is created in the image of God. We are talking here about people with names, not faceless numbers.
I hear the Minister’s concerns about the statistics around modern slavery but this issue needs much more careful analysis, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said. Other noble Lords have highlighted many of the issues around modern slavery. Surely it cannot be right that no one who arrives here by irregular means will be eligible to receive modern slavery support. As we have heard, this Bill proposes that victims of modern slavery will instead be subject to detention and removal. This seems wrong on so many levels, not least morally, but it will also be a substantial law enforcement issue. Why would anyone come forward as a victim of modern slavery and risk being sent to Rwanda? My right reverend friends the Bishops of London and Bristol will be following these issues with interest and concern.
On 10th May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Illegal Migration Bill in its first reading. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate, pointing out risks to child safeguarding and potential breaches of the refugee convention if the bill was enacted as written:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: I declare my interests as a member of the RAMP project and a trustee of Reset.
When looking to engage with a Bill, Members decide whether to focus on the detail or address the underlying principles behind the proposed legislation. This Bill leaves me with no choice but to start with the latter, as it asks fundamental questions about who we are as a nation. In order to supposedly reduce channel crossings, are we really prepared to consent to “extinguishing”, as the UNHCR puts it, the right to claim asylum and withholding support for victims of trafficking, and indefinitely detaining thousands of asylum seekers, including children and pregnant women? We have been left to consider the Bill’s provisions without an impact assessment, but these consequences will potentially lead to an unjustified intolerable level of harm which does not reflect who we are as a nation.
On 10th May 2023 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill at its Second Reading.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, 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.
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