Bishops say UK is punishing asylum seekers by sending them to Rwanda
MANCHESTER, UK — The British government is unfairly punishing Channel migrants for the crimes of human traffickers by sending the migrants to Rwanda for asylum claims to be processed, the English and Welsh bishops have said.
In a May 9 statement, the bishops said a plan to stop people from entering England illegally in small boats fails to treat migrants with justice and does not honor “their dignity as people.” human”.
“Our Christian faith demands that we respond generously to asylum seekers, whose dignity must be protected and respected,” the statement said.
“Those seeking refuge in the UK should be provided with safe routes to travel, given the opportunity to tell their story, be heard and have their cases rightly assessed,” the statement said. “We keep in mind that there are no illegal asylum seekers – seeking asylum is a human right.”
“Modern human smugglers and traffickers profit from the desperation and misery of refugees,” the Bishops continued. “We fully support their pursuit. However, it is imperative to make a clear distinction between the victims and those who exploit them. Crime is defeated by confronting the perpetrators, not by punishing the victims.
Speaking to reporters at an online press conference on May 9, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said the statement was unanimously accepted by the bishops at their plenary assembly in Cardiff, Land of Wales, May 2-6.
He said the plan, introduced by the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, was flawed because it outsourced the government’s responsibility to process asylum claims in another country.
“Clearly, we accept the complexity of these processes. We clearly accept the weight of responsibility on (the) policy maker,” said Nichols, president of the English and Welsh Bishops’ Conference. He said the law had not “provided a due process for the testing of claims”.
“Politics should not aim at the wrong targets,” he said. “We suggest the law threatens to criminalize people who have been victimized…and has the potential to start a process by which they could be deported.”
The £120million deal with Rwanda means any single men who arrive by small boats on British shores will be sent around 4,000 miles away while their asylum claims are processed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted the plan is ‘morally right’ as he believes it will reduce the risk of migrants drowning as they attempt to cross the body of water between England and France. It also seeks to disrupt the business model of human traffickers, who charge migrants large sums of money for crossing by boat.
The majority of migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, who attempt to enter England illegally through this route have already passed through several safe European countries where they could have sought asylum.
In 2021, more than 30,000 migrants entered England illegally across the English Channel, but more died trying, including 27 who drowned on one occasion in November.
During their plenary meeting, the bishops also announced that they would reinstate the obligation for Catholics to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days in England and Wales for the first time since the first national lockdown against COVID-19 more than two years ago.
In a statement released May 9, the bishops said that “the pressing challenges of the pandemic have abated considerably” and they believe “that the reasons that have prevented Catholics from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days in obligation no longer apply”.
“We thank God that this situation has now changed,” they said in the statement.
The bond will be reinstated on Pentecost, June 5. In Scotland, it was reinstated on March 6, the first Sunday of Lent, but with a government rule that worshipers must wear face coverings.
In England and Wales, however, almost all restrictions – including the use of face masks – were lifted shortly after Christmas.