Justin Welby hit out at politicians who use “harmful rhetoric” to demonise immigrants.
In October, the home secretary sparked uproar when she told MPs: “Let’s be clear about what is really going on here: the British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast and which party is not.”
She was referring to the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who come to the UK on small boats across the English Channel from France.
In a House of Lords debate on the UK’s asylum system today, the archbishop took a thinly-veiled swipe at Braverman’s remarks.
He said: “When we fail to challenge the harmful rhetoric that refugees are the cause of this country’s ills, that they should be treated as problems not people, invaders to be tackled and deterred, we deny the essential value and dignity of our fellow human beings.
“The right to seek asylum, and the duty of the global community to protect refugees, has been politically degraded in this country when it should be a positive and a source of pride.”
However, Welby insisted he was not only attacking the current government for the UK’s “grossly wasteful” immigration system.
“This has been a decades-long downward slide over successive Labour, Conservative and coalition governments,” he said.
“We are clear that the UK cannot take everyone. But it can make its decisions through a system which balances effective, accurate and clear control with compassion and dignity, a system which is based in our history and proper moral responsibilities.”
The archbishop also hit out at the government’s controversial plans to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda and predicted it be “a failure”.
He said: “The government has said the Rwanda policy aims to deter people arriving in the UK through ‘illegal, dangerous or unnecessary methods’.
“There is little or no evidence that this deterrence or the hostile environment really works. The Government’s own impact assessments say so … Outsourcing our share creates more opportunities for people smugglers to operate in and around Rwanda.
“It is not a solution – it is a mistake. It will be a failure.”