'Cruel and inhumane': Bishop slams government's Rwanda asylum plan

Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani

Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani - Credit: Diocese of Chelmsford

The Bishop of Chelmsford has written to the Home Secretary backing opposition to the government's plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani said in a letter to Priti Patel that she backed Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby's comments that the country was "sub-contracting out our responsibilities".

The government said the partnership would see asylum seekers whose claims are not being considered by the UK sent to the African country.

But Bishop Francis-Dehqani said those people who found their way to this country "deserve to have their cases considered and processed here".

She told Ms Patel: "This policy treats the most vulnerable in our midst in a cruel and inhumane way and it is for this reason that I am compelled to appeal to you, even at this late stage, to listen to the voices that are being raised from a cross section of public opinion.

"You will be aware of the very serious reservations expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Easter sermon.

"I stand full square behind his comments, and my own lived experience as an asylum seeker makes me extremely anxious about this scheme and its implications."

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Bishop Francis-Dehqani oversees the Church of England's Diocese of Chelmsford, which includes Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Newham.

In his Easter sermon, the archbishop said there are “serious ethical questions about sending asylum seekers overseas”.

The former Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell, now Archbishop of York, also criticised the plan, calling it “depressing and distressing”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This world-leading migration partnership will overhaul our broken asylum system, which is currently costing the UK taxpayer £1.5billion a year – the highest amount in two decades.

“It means those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily can be relocated to have their asylum claims considered and, if recognised as refugees, build their lives there.

“There is nothing in the UN Refugee Convention which prevents removal to a safe country. Under this agreement, Rwanda will process claims in accordance with national and international human rights laws.”