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.
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.
On 24th May 2023, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked a question he had tabled on what the government are doing to assist the government of South Sudan to support refugees from the current conflict in Sudan:
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to assist the government of South Sudan to support refugees from the conflict in Sudan.
The Bishop of Leeds received the following written answer on 17th May 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds asked His Majesty’s Government what financial assistance and logistical support they are providing and intend to provide to countries that have accepted Sudanese refugees, such as Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.
The Bishop of Leeds received the following written answer on 16th May 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds asked His Majesty’s Government what plans they are making to welcome those Sudanese refugees fleeing violence who want to come to the UK.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con, Home Office): There are no plans to create a country specific scheme for refugees fleeing Sudan.
The UK continues to welcome refugees through existing resettlement schemes which are global in scope, including the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS), Community Sponsorship, the Mandate Resettlement Scheme and the Family Reunion Scheme.
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.
The Bishop of Derby asked a question on targeted funding to aid support and integration for Afghan women being resettled in the UK, following a government statement on the Afghan resettlement scheme on 30th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I share many of the concerns that have been expressed about the routes into this country and the nature, safety and appropriateness of the accommodation for those who make it here—those to whom, as we have already noted, we have a moral obligation to extend sanctuary and welcome in this very particular circumstance.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 30th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask His Majesty’s Government how many of the 22 individuals granted resettlement through the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme Pathway 2 in 2022 are currently residing in the UK.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con): We are pleased to have now welcomed the first arrivals to the UK under ACRS Pathway 2, and we will continue to welcome many more people as we receive further UNHCR referrals.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 29th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the cost of providing the same monthly ‘thank you’ payments to those hosting people who arrived in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme as are provided to hosts on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con): Ukrainian nationals coming to the UK under the Ukraine Family Scheme are given access to work, benefits and public services as laid down in Appendix Ukraine to the Immigration Rules, details of which can be found at:
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