Justin Welby says it's his 'duty' to attack Rishi Sunak's immigration policy
By Jack Walters
Published: 24/05/2023- 20:55
Justin Welby has said it is his “duty” to attack Rishi Sunak’s Government over its policy to stop boats making the perilous 21-mile journey across the Channel.
The Archbishop of Canterbury yet again criticised the Prime Minister over his Rwanda plan and warned bishops “will not abandon” their opposition.
Welby claimed he tabled two “helpful, not destructive” amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill as the legislation reaches the committee stage in the House of Lords.
The 67-year-old also rejected comments made by his detractors by alleging they were not acting in “good faith”.
The Government is facing pressure for its strategy to stop boats crossing the Channelgbnews
Members of the upper chamber will debate the amendments put forward but will not vote on any suggested changes until the report stage.
The House of Lords’ report stage is expected in early July and could see the Government clash with hundreds of peers.
Welby, who claimed “constructive alternatives” have been put forward, wrote in The Times: “They face indefinite detention in grim conditions, at constant risk of severe destitution, and now face the prospect of being sent to Rwanda. And yet Channel crossings are set to see record numbers this year.”
He added: “Anyone who suggests those opposing this policy are indifferent to the challenges we face, or in favour of open-door immigration, or on the side of people smugglers, or even content to see desperate people drown, is not engaging with this debate in good faith.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby during the Christmas Day service at Canterbury Cathedral
Responding to Welby’s intervention, ex-Brexit Secretary and GB News host Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “While his grace agrees that we must stop the boats, he has offered no other particular solutions but two amendments to the bill to set up 10 year strategies to tackle human trafficking and the refugee crisis, and to create an alternative safe route.”
He added: “I think he is absolutely entitled to speak out, I think bishops ought to speak out and they ought to speak in terms of morality. That is their job to talk about right and wrong.
“However, I think he is wrong on the morality of this because I think stopping the evil of people traffickers is a very high responsibility of Government.”
The Archbishop, who took up his position at Lambeth Palace in 2013, suggested the Government should ramp up efforts to clear the current backlog of asylum claims, create alternative safe routes and review the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, who replaced Dominic Raab in Cabinet following the Deputy Prime Minister’s resignation last month, claimed he is confident the UK would not need to leave the European Convention on Human Rights to enforce legislation on Channel crossings.
He told The Times: “We are committed to the ECHR and the Illegal Migration Bill strikes a really fair balance between being robust, but also being fair as well.
“Having looked at it very carefully . . . we are striking that balance and we’ve done so with a huge amount of thought to ensure that we send out a clear message that those who arrive illegally can expect to be detained pending a fast track procedure.”
However, Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned the bill “pushes the boundaries” of the convention and previously advocated for the UK to cut ties with the ECHR.
Jacob Rees-Mogg spoke out about Justin Welby's latest immigration interventionGB News
Sunak and Braverman have vowed to end the Channel crossing crisis, with stopping the boats emerging as one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities in Number 10.
The Government’s plan to stop the boats includes detaining and removing those arriving in the UK illegally, either via Rwanda or another “safe” third country.
A total of 45,755 migrants crossed the English Channel in small boats in 2022, with 15,925 coming from Albania.
The number who have embarked on the journey so far in 2023 has already hit 7,297.