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.
On 9th December 2022 the Bishop of Chelmsford spoke in a debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the principles behind UK asylum and refugee policy.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, for her gracious maiden speech and for mentioning the role of churches in local resilience forums. I look forward to hearing the two maiden speeches to come. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester and I were formerly colleagues when I was Bishop of Loughborough, and I look forward to working with him in this House.
I thank my right reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury for securing this timely and important debate. This past year alone, we have seen multiple developments of concern, with an increase in forced migration due to conflict around the globe and over a third of Ukraine’s population displaced by war, with millions seeking refuge beyond their borders. A record 40,000-plus people have made the precarious English Channel crossing. We have also seen deeply troubling conditions faced by people once they are in the UK: overcrowded processing centres, threats of deportation to Rwanda, and a lack of resettlement through the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 6th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government how many propositions for new Immigration Removal Centres have been announced to market in the last two years.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con): In the period 23 November 2020 to 23 November 2022 the Home Office has announced to the market three new Immigration Removals Centres: Derwentside IRC, Campsfield IRC, and Haslar IRC.
The Bishop of Durham asked a question about the future use of the Manston immigration facility, and whether children would be detained there, during a debate on the accommodation and safeguarding of migrants on 9th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: How will His Majesty’s Government ensure that Manston will now remain a 24-hour facility only, in a way that can be scaled up if necessary, and that no children are detained there at all—or, at least, are not detained with adults who they do not know?
The Lord Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 2nd November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government what is the estimated cost of reopening (1) the Campsfield House immigration removal centre in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, and (2) the Haslar immigration removal centre in Gosport, Hampshire.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con): As set out in the Prior Information Notice published on 21 September, the current estimated operating costs for Campsfield and Haslar immigration removal centres (IRC) for the lifetime of the 8 year contract will be £170 million and £229 million respectively. In addition to the operating costs, there are also costs associated with the refurbishment and new build of the sites.
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