‘I joined 25 Bishops in condemning plans to send refugees to Rwanda – here’s why’ – Bishop of Durham


The following article by the Bishop of Durham appeared in the Independent on 15th June 2022

The Bishop of Durham,
Rt Revd Paul Butler

It is a deeply regrettable moment for us as a nation that the government is pursuing a policy that intends to transport asylum seekers to another country thousands of miles away, before and without considering their claim to asylum in the UK.

We have a rich history of providing sanctuary to those around the world fleeing war and persecution, and it is intolerable to see us abdicate both our moral responsibility and commitment to international law. This week, all of the 26 bishops of the Church of England who serve in the House of Lords signed a letter voicing our alarm over the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

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Bishops’ letter to The Times on the Rwanda asylum removals policy


14/06/2022

All of the Lords Spiritual signed a letter to The Times voicing alarm about the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. They wrote:

Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries. Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.

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Votes: Nationality and Borders Bill

On 27th April 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill. A vote was held on an amendment, in which two Bishops took part.

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‘Rwanda refugees plan flies in the face of Christian teachings’ – Bishop of Durham

This is the text of an article published in The Independent on 26th April 2022.

Bishop of Durham

The government’s plan is troubling because we are discharging our responsibility to welcoming the stranger, writes the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler.

In the House of Lords over the past few months, I have been contributing to debates on the Nationality and Borders Bill – engaging with the government’s desire to reform the asylum system. My starting point is the Christian commitment to welcoming the stranger, treating them as we would each other.

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Nationality and Borders Bill: Bishop of Manchester speaks in debate

On 26th April 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill. The Bishop of Manchester put forward two amendments, Motion F1 and H1. Motion F1 was disagreed with on division, and motion H1 was not moved following debate:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I confess that I thought I had finished with ping-pong when I laid down my bat as table tennis captain of my college at university more than four decades ago. This is my first time at it in this rather different setting.

I rise to speak in support of Motions F1 and H1 in my name. I am extremely grateful to my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham for his excellent previous work on these Motions. He is unable to be in his place today, so we worked on them together. I am also grateful for a letter I received this morning from leaders of many of the main Christian denominations in the United Kingdom, urging me to continue to press on these matters.

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Bishop of Durham asks about the Nationality and Borders Bill (2022)

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 25th April 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they have applied the Family Test to the Nationality and Borders Bill.

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Nationality and Borders Bill: Bishop of Durham speaks in favour of amendments

On 4th April 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill. The Bishop of Durham tabled Amendments 53B to 53D, and spoke in support of several other amendments:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, in rising to speak in support of Motions G1 and J1, I declare my interests in relation to both RAMP and Reset, as set out in the register. I continue to be of the view that Clause 11 is the most inhumane part of the Bill. I therefore continue to support both Motions C1 and D1; I also support Motions E1 and F1.

The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, would have liked to move Motion G1 but is unable to be in the Chamber today, so we have worked together on this. When people arrive on our shores seeking protection, we have a responsibility to treat them as we would wish to be treated if indeed we had to flee for our lives. It is right that we have a process to determine who meets the criteria for refugee status but, while we determine this, we are responsible for people’s safety, welfare and care. If we move them to other countries for the processing of their asylum claims, I very much fear that a blind eye will be turned to their treatment; the Nauru experience in Australia sadly points that way.

The inhumanity of this part of the Bill is my primary concern. There are, however, significant practical and financial concerns related to the passing of Clause 28 given that we do not have details of how or where this offshoring would operate. Although this was acknowledged by many MPs supporting the legislation in the other place, they were of the opinion that the Home Secretary should have these powers available to her if needed. On that basis, Motion G1 would allow the Home Secretary these powers while introducing much-needed transparency and a check on the introduction of an offshore processing and detention system. This would allow proper consideration by both Houses of the appropriateness and safety of the host country proposed, and whether it meets the Home Secretary’s assurance of being a safe third country for the asylum seekers transferred there, including whether it can provide safe, humane and appropriate accommodation and processing of asylum claims.

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