The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a rare intervention in the House of Lords to denounce the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill, which is being debated in the upper house for the first time.
Justin Welby argued against the flagship law designed at guaranteeing that persons arriving in the UK in small boats be held and immediately returned home or to a third country such as Rwanda.
This was his second big criticism of the government’s treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.
The archbishop, who crowned the King on Saturday in Westminster Abbey, said he did not believe the Bill would prevent small boats from crossing the English Channel.
He told peers: “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.
“This Bill fails to take a long-term and strategic view of the challenges of migration and undermines international co-operation rather than taking an opportunity for the UK to show leadership.”
Highlighting the existing global agreements on refugees, Mr Welby said: “While now inadequate, what those conventions offer is a baseline from which to build a globally shared understanding of what protection must be given to refugees.
“They are not inconvenient obstructions to get round by any legislative means necessary.”
He added: “Even if this Bill succeeded in temporarily stopping the boats, and I don’t think it will, it won’t stop conflict or climate migration.”
The Bill contains measures that would limit the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) jurisdiction to block the repatriation of asylum seekers.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment to “stop the boats” transporting migrants across the English Channel spurred the crackdown.
So far in 2023, over 6,000 migrants have crossed the Channel.
To accommodate the large number of people, the government intends to repurpose former military camps and a barge as lodging centres.