UK archbishop slams plan to send migrants to Rwanda

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby added his voice to the dissent in his Easter Day address. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - The leader of the Church of England, Justin Welby, on Sunday (April 17) criticised the British government's plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda to process their claims.

The scheme has sparked outrage and widespread criticism from human rights organisations and the United Nations.

Welby, who as the Archbishop of Canterbury is the Church of England's highest cleric, added his voice to the dissent in his Easter Day address.

While "the details are for politics and politicians," Welby suggested that sending asylum seekers overseas posed "serious ethical questions. "The principle must stand the judgement of God and it cannot," Welby said.

A country like Britain formed by Christian values cannot "sub-contract out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well like Rwanda," the church leader continued. It "is the opposite of the nature of God."

When unveiling the policy last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already suggested there could be legal challenges to the plans.

But the interior ministry, or Home Office, which is in charge of implementing the policy, argued that Britain's current system was "broken" and pointed to unprecedented global migratory pressures. Johnson has pledged to do "whatever it takes" to ensure the plans work - but the UN refugee agency UNHCR condemned the scheme as an "egregious breach of international law."

According to Rwanda, the British government will fund the deal by up to 120 million pounds (S$213 million) and migrants would be "integrated into communities across the country."

British media from the left-leaning Guardian to the conservative Daily Telegraph on Saturday warned the policy could spark a "mutiny" among civil servants tasked with making the scheme operational.

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