'Traffickers are immoral not us' Truss blasts bishops for saying Rwandan plan 'shames UK'

14 June 2022, 00:19 | Updated: 14 June 2022, 08:55

Senior Church of England bishops have criticised the PM's plan
Senior Church of England bishops have criticised the PM's plan. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The Foreign Secretary has hit out at senior Bishops who blasted the Government's Rwanda Migrant plan as "shaming Britain", stating that the Government is not immoral but 'people traffickers are'.

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Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Liz Truss claimed the migrants who are set to be deported to the African country are being treated with "fairness and compassion".

When grilled by Nick on leaders of the Church of England claiming the UK Government's plan to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda is an "immoral policy" that "shames Britain", Ms Truss rejected the claims.

The Government Minister said: "I do not agree that assessment at all. We are carrying out this policy that will deal with the appalling people trafficking that is taking place and those are the people that are immoral.

"It’s people who are selling a future dream and are meanwhile hurting people, causing them to loose their lives on the English Channel.

"Those are the people that are immoral and that is why we are pursuing this policy of being able to take people to Rwanda for a safer future whilst at the same time deterring the activities of these illegal people traffickers."

The Foreign Secretary insisted the government "are treating people with fairness and compassion" adding that "they will be treated well" in Rwanda.

When questioned whether the cost of around £70,000 a head for the flight today is "value for money", Ms Truss replied: “What you’ve got to look at Nick, is the overall cost of illegal immigration and the cost to human life and the cost to the British economy of these illegal immigration routes.

"That’s what you’ve got to weigh up the costs against. We need to make sure that if people aren’t on today’s flight, that they are on subsequent flights."

The UK Government's plan to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda is an "immoral policy" that "shames Britain", leaders of the Church of England have claimed.

It comes as the first deportation flight taking migrants to Rwanda is set to go ahead on Tuesday.

It will see migrants being given a one-way ticket to the east African nation as part of Home Secretary Priti Patel's bid to curb Channel crossings.

However, senior Church of England bishops, including the archbishops of Canterbury and York, have criticised the move for lacking morality.

A letter to the Times, signed by the Most Rev Justin Welby and the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, said: "Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation."

It went on: "The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries."

The letter - also signed by the bishops of London, Durham, Exeter, Birmingham and Manchester - added: "This immoral policy shames Britain."

Read more: 'It’s the Government’s job': PM hits back at Charles in Rwanda migrants flights row

Read more: James O'Brien blasts Rwanda refugee scheme for appealing to 'vile racists'

It is not the first time Most Rev Justin Welby has spoken out on the issue, after having used his Easter sermon to say there were "serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas".

He later said it would have been "cowardly" not to have spoken out against the plan.

However, Boris Johnson and other Cabinet ministers hit back at Mr Welby for his intervention in April.

Mr Johnson, according to sources who attended a private meeting between the Prime Minister and Tory MPs after Easter, claimed the senior clergyman had "misconstrued the policy".

A Government spokesperson said: "Our world-leading Partnership with Rwanda will see those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK relocated there to have their claims considered and rebuild their lives.

"There is no one single solution to the global migration crisis, but doing nothing is not an option and this partnership will help break the business model of criminal gangs and prevent loss of life.

"Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers and we are confident the agreement is fully compliant with all national and international law."

Migrants - as well as campaign groups and a union - asked judges at the Court of Appeal on Monday to block the upcoming deportation flight.

However, the Court of Appeal refused to grant an injunction, meaning the controversial flight can go ahead.

The flight, which is due to leave the UK on Tuesday, was originally expected to take just 11 asylum seekers to Rwanda.

But Care4Calais, one of the charities that brought the appeal, said just seven still had live tickets.

The charity said 24 individuals the Government wanted to remove had succeeded in having their tickets cancelled.

The injunction would have granted interim relief preventing the Government from removing individuals to Rwanda until legal challenges against the policy have been heard by UK courts.

Over one hundred people who have sought asylum in the UK, including people who have fled Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Iran and Iraq, have been issued with removal notices following the signing of an agreement between the UK and Rwandan Governments in April.

Another urgent injunction application by the charity Asylum Aid was heard in the High Court on Monday, with its bid also rejected.

Conservatives cheered as an MP told the Commons a bid to block the Home Office's controversial policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda failed.

Boris Johnson earlier on Monday defended his plans to send migrants to Rwanda after reported criticism from the Prince of Wales, who is understood to have privately condemned the plans, labelling them as "appalling".

A Clarence House spokesman did not deny that Charles was opposed to the policy, but said: "We would not comment on supposed anonymous private conversations with the Prince of Wales, except to restate that he remains politically neutral.

"Matters of policy are decisions for Government."

Mr Johnson hit back at Charles' comments, telling LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast earlier: "What we need to do is stop the criminal gangs."

Asylum seekers at a Gatwick deportation centre.
Asylum seekers at a Gatwick deportation centre. Picture: Alamy

When confronted with comments understood to have been made by Prince Charles behind closed doors, the PM replied: "I do think it’s the job of Government to stop people breaking the law and to support people who are doing the right thing.

Nick asked the PM: "Would one flight justify this policy? Just one person being removed?"

Mr Johnson said: "I think it's very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people's lives at risk in the Channel is going to be broken - is being broken - by this Government.

"They are selling people a false hope, they are luring them into something extremely risky and criminal."

Previously, the Home Office said it expected legal challenges but is "determined to deliver this new partnership" and insisted the policy "fully complies with international and national law".

While Downing Street said Boris Johnson remains confident the policy is legal.

The policy to forcibly send to Rwanda asylum seekers who arrive in the UK in unauthorised Channel crossings has been criticised by some MPs and campaigners.

It was brought forward after a £120 million economic deal was struck with Rwanda and cash for each removal is expected to follow.