'Jesus would be against trafficking': Ann Widdecombe on Archbishop's Rwanda claim

17 April 2022, 11:02 | Updated: 17 April 2022, 11:15

'Jesus would stand against trafficking': Ann Widdecombe hits back at Archbishop's Rwanda asylum criticism
'Jesus would stand against trafficking': Ann Widdecombe hits back at Archbishop's Rwanda asylum criticism. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Tim Dodd

Former Home Office Minister Ann Widdecombe has hit back at the Archbishop of Canterbury's criticism that the government's plan to send migrants to Rwanda is "ungodly", saying Jesus would "certainly stand against people trafficking".

In his Easter sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Justin Welby will criticise Priti Patel's plans to ship those who have made the perilous journey in small boats across the Channel thousands of miles away.

The proposals have been slammed as "evil" and "cruel", with the UN Refugee Agency raising concerns about Britain's plans, claiming it's a breach of international law.

Asked for her reaction to the Archbishop's comments, Ms Widdecombe said: "Well, if you want to think of something ungodly, it is the people trafficking that is quite ruthlessly going on.

"And I think putting an end to that is not ungodly, and a policy that says 'look, if you think you can come to the UK without a valid asylum claim, for economic reasons when you're already in safe countries like France or Italy or wherever it might be - you can't, and this is what is going to happen.

"I think that the deterrent effect will be massive. I think the only problem, maybe Iain, and we'll have to see - because this policy is going to apply to men, there may be an increased emphasis from the people-traffickers on women and children."

In his Easter sermon, the Archbishop will say: "Let this be a time for Russian ceasefire, withdrawal and a commitment to talks. This is a time for resetting the ways of peace, not for what Bismarck called blood and iron. Let Christ prevail. Let the darkness of war be banished.

"And this season is also why there are such serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas.

"The details are for politics. The principle must stand the judgment of God, and it cannot. It cannot carry the weight of resurrection justice, of life conquering death. It cannot carry the weight of the resurrection that was first to the least valued, for it privileges the rich and strong.

"And it cannot carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values, because sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures."

Read more: Govt signed refugee deal months after condemning Rwanda for human rights abuses

Iain asked Ms Widdecombe what Jesus would do with the UK's asylum seekers, suggesting he would have stood with the refugees.

"I think he would certainly stand against people trafficking," Ms Widdecombe said.

"It is incumbent on us to make sure that those who are sent to Rwanda, who are all going to be fit men... are properly treated when they get there. And a lot will depend on the inspection and the monitoring.

"But if that is as it should be, and there's no good reason why it shouldn't, then I think this is the right way forward.

"And indeed, if it does stop people trafficking, and does stop the abuse of our asylum system then I would say it was well worth it."

Read more: 'We're a silly little island!': Natasha Devon savages the UK's Rwanda refugee deal