Justin Welby has launched a blistering attack on the government’s “morally unacceptable” plan to deport migrants.
The Archbishop of Canterbury made a rare intervention in the Lords on Wednesday, to condemn the Illegal Migration Bill.
The archbishop, who crowned the King in Westminster Abbey on Saturday, said he did not think the legislation will stop small boats crossing the Channel.
Other peers blasted the Tory government’s immigration crackdown as a “low point” and “inhumane”.
Welby described the bill as a “short term fix” and told the Lords: “It is isolationist, it is morally unacceptable and politically impractical to let the poorest countries deal with [the refugee crisis] alone and cut our international aid.”
The bill is aimed at changing the law to make it easier to remove and ban people arriving in the UK illegally.
Welby warned that international protections for refugees are “not inconvenient obstructions” to get round by “any legislative means necessary”.
He said bills were needed to reform migration and “stop the boats” but added: “This bill fails to take a long term and strategic view of the challenges of migration and undermines international co-operation rather than taking an opportunity for the UK to show leadership.”
The legislation has proved hugely controversial with critics warning it leaves the UK foul of its international obligations.
Under the bill, migrants will either be sent back to their home country or to a nation like Rwanda with which the UK has a deal, although legal challenges mean no flights carrying migrants have taken off for Kigali.
Welby has previously criticised the Rwanda plan saying it “cannot stand up to the judgment of God”.
King Charles was also reportedly critical of the Rwanda deal, even sparking claims that he and Boris Johnson once had a bust up over it.
The Lords is considering the Illegal Migration Bill at second reading after it passed the Commons.
The legislation would allow ministers to ban asylum seekers from re-entry if they arrive through unauthorised means.
It places a duty on the home secretary to remove illegal entrants and includes provisions to limit the ability of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to stop the deportation of asylum seekers.
The bill will also introduce an annual cap, to be decided by Parliament, on the number of refugees the UK will offer sanctuary to through safe and legal routes.
The clampdown was prompted by prime minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” bringing migrants across the English Channel.
More than 6,000 migrants have crossed the channel so far in 2023.
Home secretary Suella Braverman urged peers to back the legislation, arguing it is what the British people want.
Meanwhile, immigration minister Robert Jenrick accused the archbishop of being “wrong on both counts”.
He told the BBC’s World At One: “Firstly there’s nothing moral about allowing the pernicious trade of people smugglers to continue…
“I disagree with him respectfully. By bringing forward this proposal we make it clear that if you come across illegally on a small boat you will not find a route to life in the UK.”
He added: “That will have a serious deterrent effect.”