Justin Welby was right to speak up for a humane asylum system

Editorial: The Archbishop of Canterbury condemned the Illegal Migration Bill as ‘morally unacceptable’

Wednesday 10 May 2023 18:23 BST
If the Church cannot pronounce on questions of morality, it might as well shut up shop
If the Church cannot pronounce on questions of morality, it might as well shut up shop (AP)

Whether or not the Church should be represented in the British legislature, Justin Welby has a duty to express his view on questions of public policy from a moral standpoint. We should leave aside the question of whether it is right for him to have a vote on the making of laws by virtue of his Church office, and address the substance of what he said.

He is right to say that the government’s attempt to deport to Rwanda those arriving in Britain on small boats is “morally unacceptable and politically impractical”. He is right to say that the Illegal Migration Bill in its current form “undermines international cooperation”, and that the government should try harder to work with other countries on long-term solutions to the growing problem of global migration.

Nor is the Archbishop of Canterbury a naive liberal. He does not advocate open borders. He opened his speech in the House of Lords by saying, “We need a bill to stop the boats.” His argument, however, was that “this is not that bill”. He said: “Of course, we cannot take everyone, and nor should we.” He suggested that the 1951 Refugee Convention needs “updating” – a position that some advocates of migrants’ rights regard as a form of secular sacrilege.

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