Yesterday, I wrote responding to the criticism that opponents of the Government’s “Rwanda policy” haven’t come up with any proposals of their own. Well, it seems that having stated what some of those proposals are, the criticism switched back to “but in your article, you didn’t offer a critique of the Government’s policy.” It seems that you can’t win.
Objections to my article included first that my position aligned with a free movement/free market approach. This isn’t specifically Christian.
It’s worth remembering that I didn’t claim that the proposals were specifically Christian. My aim was simply to show that alternatives to the Rwanda policy existed. And whilst my own leanings may be towards a free market/freedom of movement approach to immigration, my general point in the article was that it isn’t really meaningful to attempt to set an arbitrary figure on what level of immigration is acceptable because once you accept anything less than net zero immigration then you have to acknowledge that what is sustainable will vary based on a number of factors at any given time.
Secondly, that my approach didn’t engage with the argument that there was a social conservative case for controlling immigration because society could only absorbed so much upheaval and cultural change.
I’ll deal with that specific issue in another article. However, it is worth also observing that you can favour strict controls and limits on immigration and still believe that the specific Government policy.
Thirdly, that I don’t deal with the big talking point about why asylum seekers don’t apply in the first safe country they come to.
It’s worth remembering that this isn’t possible. For example, I know of one refugee who due to his prior childhood involvement with the very people he now was fleeing from had a criminal record in the nearest “safe country” and so that and some other countries were closed to him. I also know plenty of refugees who came directly here, not via another country. I’ve also written previously on why asylum seekers may specifically opt to seek refuge here and not in another country.
However, I want to focus specifically here on one criticism -that I didn’t deal with the morality of the Rwanda policy.
Now, in my previous article, I was focusing on showing that there were alternatives to the Rwanda policy, so I didn’t revisit the arguments against that policy, although they have been stated often enough so that we should all be familiar with them. However, I thought it might be worth restate why it is that as a Christian I consider the policy immoral. As I’ve already stated, I think that you can be in favour of controlled/low immigration, strict border controls, points based systems, swift deportations etc and still agree that this specific approach is morally repugnant.
Remember that the policy is to detain asylum seekers who have attempted to arrive in the country across the channel before removing them to Rwanda where their asylum claim will be processed there. If successful, then they will be offered asylum in Rwanda not in the UK. As many people have observed, this policy involves deporting people to a country with its own questionable human rights history.
I think we should be able to easily see three major moral issues here. The first is that it singles out victims and punishes them for the crimes of their abusers. It has been argued that this policy is needed because we need to do something to discourage and dissuaded the people traffickers who ply their trade by charging extortionate amounts to smuggle asylum seekers into the UK. However, if this is the case, then it is the people smugglers themselves who should face the consequences of the Law. There are other examples of people who end up being abused by organised criminals and the victims of extortion such as for example the victims of loan sharks. In such cases, we don’t further penalise the victims, we don’t argue that by taking out a loan from criminals that they are supporting organised crime. We recognise that they have suffered harm and that it is the loan shark who has done evil. It is immoral to punish the victim for the evil acts of the perpetrator.
The second is that, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has forcibly argued, by subcontracting out our asylum processes, we are abdicating from our basic human responsibility to care for the vulnerable and displaced. Despite all the reports we often hear of Britain being awash with asylum seekers, we in fact lag behind other countries doing far more to help those displaced by war and persecution.
Thirdly, what we do when we pick up these people, detain them and then transport them to a third country which is neither the place where they have come from nor where they desire to go is that as a country we in effect become involved in people trafficking. We choose to move people around and hand them over to other people for perceived mutual benefit. The Rwanda policy is in effect, state sponsored people trafficking. Biblically, this places the Government in the category of being a “man stealer” which is a sin which the Bible singles out for specific condemnation (1 Timothy 1:10).
Rather than acting to oppose the man stealers of our day and age, we claim to be seeking to oppose them by in fact adding to their evil deeds. For these reasons, I consider the Rwanda policy a moral evil that transcends party politics. I urge the Government to end this terrible action immediately.