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LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Britain’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is at odds with the Scriptures, according to the English bishops’ conference’s point man on immigration.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the proposal last week, saying it would be aimed at single men illegally crossing the English Channel on boats and would provide “safe and legal routes for asylum while disrupting the business model of [human trafficking] gangs.”
Rwanda said it would resettle any applicant who could prove their refugee status, although several refugee agencies have questioned the human rights record of the East African country.
Bishop Paul McAleenan, the lead bishop for Migrants and Refugees for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the plan is “at odds” with the line from the Prophet Isaiah: “He does not break the crushed reed nor quench the wavering flame.”
“Despite presenting the plan as a humanitarian need to combat trafficking, this scheme will compound the difficulties of those arriving on our shores hoping for a new beginning. The actions of the people of this country show that they wish to lift up those in need, decisions of the government should do likewise,” the bishop said in a statement.
More than 28,000 migrants entered the UK across the Channel last year, up from 8,500 in 2020. Dozens have died, including 27 people in November when a single boat capsized.
“I am reminded of a memorial plaque on the promenade in Dover [located on the English Channel] honoring those who died at sea seeking refuge. ‘Every migrant has a name, a face, a story’. This should be our starting point. We need to make it convenient for them to tell their story [their asylum claim] remembering we are dealing with individuals made in God’s image who have endured great hardships in their own country and on their travels,” the bishop continued.
McAleenan said the UK government and the whole international community, motivated by the desire to uphold the dignity of human life, need to address the problems which cause people to flee their homes.
The plan has been heavily criticized by refugee agencies in the UK.
In a statement, the Jesuit Refugee Service UK said the government is aiming “to turn our backs on people seeking sanctuary here, removing them without even examining their claims.”
On Easter Sunday, the head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby, said there are “serious ethical questions about sending asylum-seekers overseas.”
Welby said, “sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well, like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures.”
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome