Archbishop of Canterbury leads attack against Sunak's migrant bill as govt suffers more defeats in House of Lords

6 July 2023, 00:22 | Updated: 6 July 2023, 00:45

Justin Welby has been an outspoken critic of the government's migration policy
Justin Welby has been an outspoken critic of the government's migration policy. Picture: Alamy/Getty/PA
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Archbishop of Canterbury has successfully led an amendment against Rishi Sunak's new migration bill as the government suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords yesterday.

Justin Welby spearheaded one amendment to the bill, which was backed by 186 votes to 131.

The amendment would force the government to formulate a 10-year plan for working with international partners to tackle the refugee crisis.

On Wednesday evening, House of Lords peers demanded a number of amendments be made to the controversial migration bill, which Mr Sunak has put at the heart of his 'Stop the Boats' policy.

The Bill, if passed, will aim to ensure those who enter the UK illegally are detained and deported back to their country of origin, or Rwanda.

Mr Sunak's spokesperson has insisted the government's policy on restricting those crossing the channel is 'fair'.

Government defeats in the House of Lords

Rishi Sunak has vowed to 'Stop the Boats'
Rishi Sunak has vowed to 'Stop the Boats'. Picture: Getty

The House of Lords also voted 188 votes to 158 in favour of an amendment led by Labour that would give the National Crime Agency legal responsibility to tackle crime that takes place on the English Channel.

Meanwhile, a move led by Tory peers was backed by 232 votes to ensure ministers have the legal duty to create safe and legal routes for refugees to enter the UK. Some 169 voted against.

In addition, Lords peers voted 235 to 185 for an amendment - proposed by the Bishop of Durham - that would reinstate the right of appeal of an age assessment.

It comes after a series of faith leaders, including Mr Welby, argued in The Times that the proposed legislation "falls short of our obligation to the most vulnerable".

Those who signed the letter include Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Rabbi Josh Levy, and Senior Imam Qari Asim.

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The letter reads: “As faith leaders, we represent people and communities whose belief, worship and action point us towards the kind of society we wish to build for the common good.

"The Illegal Migration Bill falls short of our obligation towards the most vulnerable. It fails to meet the basic test of an evidence-based and workable policy.

"We need an alternative approach that reflects our country’s history, values and responsibility.

"With more than 100 million people displaced around the world, this crisis will not be solved without significant collective endeavour.

"To improve the Bill, we support an amendment requiring the government to produce a ten-year strategy, collaborating internationally to stop the boats here and globally, and tackle refugee crises and human trafficking.

"The UK should take a lead in setting out a just, compassionate approach, ensuring that people seeking sanctuary are protected, claims decided quickly and justly, human traffickers are punished, and the root causes of mass migration are properly addressed."

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks in the House of Lords
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks in the House of Lords. Picture: PA

Mr Welby has been an outspoken critic of the government's migration policy, labelling its proposed legislation "morally unacceptable".

Speaking in the Lords in May, he said: "This bill has no sense at all of the long term and the global nature of the challenge that the world faces.

"It ignores the reality that global migration must be engaged with at source as well as in the Channel as if we as a country were unrelated to the rest of the world."

The archbishop added that the bill does not make any effort to tackle issues that are causing mass migration, including wars and climate change.

"It is isolationist, it is morally unacceptable and politically impractical," he said.