Archbishop of Canterbury stands by Rwanda criticism

(Photo: ITV News)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has defended his criticism of government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Writing in The Telegraph, Archbishop Justin Welby reiterated comments he made in his Easter sermon in which he said the plan was the "opposite of the nature of God". 

The Archbishop's position was attacked by senior government ministers, and reportedly prompted the Prime Minister to accuse him of being softer on Vladimir Putin over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Other critics said the Archbishop should stay out of politics.

In his article for The Telegraph, Welby suggested the Church had every right to speak out.

"The Church of England is not a passive observer of migration policy," he said. 

The Archbishop argued that the current global asylum system is "broken" and that "innovative solutions" are needed to stop the "devastating" deaths occurring in the English Channel. 

"Government and Church are not the same, but we must surely all want to put humanity and fairness at the heart of our asylum system," he said.

"That is why the Church has called for safe and legal routes for asylum seekers, making visas available for humanitarian reasons, and helping families to be reunited.

He called people trafficking an "evil" that must be stopped but said that there were "serious ethical questions" about using deterrence to stop asylum seekers trying to reach England's shores.

"For years, the hostile environment has not reduced the numbers of people seeking asylum here. This approach does not lead to better or fairer outcomes for anyone.

"We can and must do better," he said.