The Archbishop of Canterbury launched a stinging attack on the government’s treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, warning that “control has become cruelty”.
Justin Welby also argued that the controversial plan to deport migrants to Rwanda from the UK for processing was destined to be a “failure”.
Speaking in a debate in the House of Lords, the archbishop cautioned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman against the use of “harmful rhetoric” that treats those arriving in the UK as “invaders”.
Since taking office, the PM has pledged tough action to tackle cross-Channel migration, while Ms Braverman has been criticized for her language to describe migrants and her frequent singling out of Albanians after their numbers crossing the Channel in small spiraled boats.
Mr Sunak has also maintained the policy of sending migrants to Rwanda of his predecessors.
Launching an annual Lords debate which he hosts every December, the archbishop told peers that while the UK “cannot take everyone”, the country needs a system “which balances effective, accurate and clear control with compassion and dignity, a system which is based on our history and proper moral responsibilities”.
He said: “When migrants arrive here, our system is grossly wasteful – in both human and financial terms. Control has become cruelty.
“Staggering inefficiencies by successive governments trap people in limbo – at incredible expense – in the system for years, unable to build a life or to contribute to society.”
Mr Welby, the spiritual head of the Church of England, said the current situation was the culmination of a “decades-long downward slide” by successive governments.
‘Decades-long downward slide’
He said: “When we fail to challenge the harmful rhetoric that refugees are the cause of this country’s ills, that they should be treated as problems not people, invaders to be tackled and deterred, we deny the essential value and dignity of our fellow human beings.
“The right to seek asylum, and the duty of the global community to protect refugees, has been politically degraded in this country when it should be a positive and a source of pride.
“This has been a decades-long downward slide over successive Labour, Conservative and coalition governments.
“We are clear that the UK cannot take everyone. But it can make its decisions through a system which balances effective, accurate and clear control with compassion and dignity, a system which is based on our history and proper moral responsibilities.”
His speech also condemned the Rwanda plan, first announced by former home secretary Priti Patel, which has been hampered by legal challenges.
Little sign of a big step forward to tackle Europe’s migration problem
Braverman pledges to do ‘whatever it takes’
He said: “The government has said the Rwanda policy aims to deter people arriving in the UK through ‘illegal, dangerous or unnecessary methods’.
“There is little or no evidence that this deterrence or the hostile environment really works. The government’s own impact assessments say so.
“Outsourcing our share creates more opportunities for people smugglers to operate in and around Rwanda. It is not a solution – it is a mistake. It will be a failure.”
On Thursday, Ms Braverman joined counterparts from France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to discuss efforts to crack down on Channel crossings and bring people smugglers to justice.