The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 2oth February 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government what is the average wait before an individual is returned following acceptance of a voluntary deportation from the UK.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con): The average processing time of voluntary return applications is not routinely captured. To capture numbers would require a manual trawl of data and to do so would incur disproportionate cost.
On 6th February 2023, the Bishop of Durham spoke in a debate on the Government’s use of a Memorandum of Understanding rather than a treaty as the vehicle for the agreement with Rwanda on the transfer of asylum seekers, highlighting the stance of the House of Bishops against the policy and the government’s responsibility towards children and the vulnerable:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: I declare my interest in RAMP as laid out in the register. The Lords Spiritual as a whole chose to speak out against the transfer of asylum seekers to Rwanda. We did not do this lightly, knowing the privileged role we hold in the life of our nation, but the memorandum of understanding brings into question fundamental issues about individual rights, our commitment to international law and our moral standing as a nation. It is because of these deep and important questions that I believe the use of an MoU was highly inappropriate.
The Bishop of Southwark received the following written answer on 26th January 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the statement by the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 23 June 2020 (HC Deb col. 1193), what progress they have made towards implementing recommendations 9 and 10 of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review (HC 93) to create a Migrants Commissioner and to give more powers to the Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration.
Lord Muarry of Blidworth (Con): In March 2020 the then Home Secretary published Wendy Williams’s Windrush Lessons Learned Review, which set out 30 recommendations for the department.
A range of options have been considered for delivering these recommendations, which have been discussed with external stakeholders. The Home Office is taking steps to be more transparent to ensure that the department is as open as possible to all types of scrutiny, both internal and external.
On 24th January 2023, the Bishop of Durham asked a question on what forecast the government have made on numbers of people seeking asylum in the UK via safe routes in 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask His Majesty’s Government what forecast they have made of the number of people from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, and Sudan who will travel to the United Kingdom via a safe route in order to seek asylum in 2023.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con): The United Kingdom welcomes vulnerable people in need of protection through our relocation and resettlement schemes. The number of people coming to the UK via safe and legal routes depends on many factors, including local authorities’ capacity to support them and the extent to which community sponsorship continues to thrive. There is no explicit provision within our Immigration Rules for someone to be allowed to travel here to seek asylum or temporary refuge.
The Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate marking the 75th Anniversary of the Empire Windrush ship to Britain, highlighting the contributions made by Caribbean immigrants and the ongoing need to challenge racism:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for this important and timely debate. I thank other Members who have spoken so eloquently about the contribution of Caribbean people to this country.
In 1948, we invited Caribbean people to come to this country to help rebuild after the terrible devastation of the war. Some were welcomed; indeed, I have an auntie and uncle who, for 40 years, offered accommodation to people coming from the Caribbean. They did it joyfully and gladly and introduced them, wherever possible, into their Methodist church. However, at the same time there were many instances where they were not welcomed and, sadly, not even welcomed into some of our churches. They experienced appalling racism, which was simply shameful.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 9th January 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask His Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Sharpe of Epsom on 24 October (HL2407), what estimate they have made of the number of people with British children who have applied for a change to their asylum status from a status with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) over the last five years.
On 9th December 2022 the Archbishop of Canterbury led a debate in the House of Lords on the motion:
That this House takes note of the principles behind contemporary United Kingdom asylum and refugee policy, and of the response to the challenges of forced migration.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am very grateful to the usual channels for facilitating this debate, to those among the staff of the House who have had to work extra hard to come in today, and to so many noble Lords for being present. I look forward to hearing the maiden speeches of the right reverent Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, the noble Lord, Lord Sahota, and the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, on this subject.
The Bishop of Durham spoke in a debate on 9th December 2022 led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the principles behind asylum and refugee policy.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar. We are not often afforded the opportunity to look at asylum policy forensically and dispassionately, so I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for choosing this debate. I also congratulate those who have given their maiden speeches today, and note my registered interests as a trustee of Reset and a principal of RAMP.
I begin by laying out clear principles that come from how ancient Israel was called to treat refugees: to welcome people, to treat them with dignity as fellow humans, to provide support, and to enable self-support and integration. It is no secret that we are not doing the mechanics of “welcome” through asylum processing well. The applications backlog means we are unable to prioritise those in need or humanely return those not recognised as refugees. There were close to 140,000 unanswered applications in the system by the end of September, so men, women and children were left in limbo and unable to rebuild their lives. This is not treating people with dignity. Chronic underinvestment in both people and systems at the Home Office has caused this, but there are workable solutions, such as to recruit more caseworkers and set up a dedicated case clearance unit that effectively triages.
On 9th December 2022 the Archbishop of York spoke in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s debate on the principles behind UK asylum and immigration policy.
The Archbishop of York: My Lords, despite my probably sensible and timely demotion on the speakers’ list*, I am nevertheless delighted to speak in this very moving debate and to thank my brother, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, for bringing it to us.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, for his kind words about our preaching earlier this year. I can assure him that on almost every other occasion when I rise to speak, although not on this occasion, it is to speak about the Christian gospel, whose values underpin everything I am about to say. I was also very moved by the noble Lord, Lord Singh, who quoted the Jewish and Christian scriptures to us. That is such a powerful sign of the generous spirit of the Sikh faith, which we can all learn so much from. I am also grateful for the three powerful maiden speeches that we have heard today
I want to emphasise a small but significant point. Getting this right, and doing the right thing, is a blessing for everyone in our society and the best way of shifting the opinion of the public, whose anxiety about this issue is fuelled by the dysfunction of our current system. The hard truth is that our asylum system simply does not treat everyone the same. It does not give people the dignity, safety and agency that their humanity deserves. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, that everyone is our neighbour. Of course, we cannot take everybody, but that makes it even more important that we have a fair system for everyone.
On 9th December 2022 the Bishop of Leicester, Rt Revd Martyn Snow, made his first speech in the House of Lords, during the Archbishop of Canterbury’s debate on the principles behind UK asylum and refugee policy.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester (Maiden Speech): My Lords, it is a privilege to make my maiden speech in this most important debate. I am grateful to my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury for putting forward this Motion. I am grateful also to noble Lords for their welcome today. I look forward to learning from, and working with, them in service of His Majesty’s Government and our great nation. As one of my relatives was the first ever manager of the English football team, I echo the noble Lord, Lord Sahota, in his hope that his and my elevation may lead to success as in 1966.
As Bishop of Leicester, I have the honour of serving a city which has been made by migration, including those seeking asylum. Among them were Asian refugees expelled from Uganda 50 years ago and Somalian refugees fleeing the civil war in the 1990s. Socially, culturally and economically, Leicester has benefited phenomenally from the talents, hard work and rich heritage of migrant communities.
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