The UK Government has been accused of “dishonouring God” by putting up “barriers” against vulnerable people fleeing conflict.
Ministers were slammed over the UK’s immigration policies by the Church of Scotland moderator, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields.
He was speaking ahead of Refugee Week, which runs from June 20 until June 26.
The Moderator said the Government’s Nationality and Borders Act “makes life very difficult” for people seeking the safety that they desperately need.
He described the Government’s pursuit of policies, including deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda as an “unspeakable disgrace and a stain on our nation”.
A flight that had been due to take off from London’s Stansted Airport to Rwanda was cancelled this week following an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Home secretary Priti Patel has defended the Rwanda policy, insisting that the Government aims to break the “deadly people smuggling trade”, as well as saving lives.
“People will continue to try and prevent their relocation through legal challenges and last-minute claims, but we will not be deterred in breaking the deadly people smuggling trade and ultimately saving lives,” she said.
“Rwanda is a safe country and has previously been recognised for providing a safe haven for refugees – we will continue preparations for the first flight to Rwanda, alongside the range of other measures intended to reduce small boat crossings.”
Dr Greenshields insisted that the offering of sanctuary and hospitality is important to all Christians.
“An ordinary family, enjoying life following the birth of their first child. Then came the dreadful news that a tyrant was planning on killing their son,” he said.
“That was the moment that fear caused them to flee from their country. They became people seeking refuge in another country – refugees through no fault of their own. Who were they? Mary, Joseph and their son Jesus.
“Their story is a story repeated all over the world as we seek to build a culture of welcome that embraces the values of human dignity and worth of all people.
“As people flee oppression, violence, conflict and war, many unfortunately do not find the welcome or safe place they need.”
The moderator described the “hostile policies” being taken by the UK Government as an “unspeakable disgrace”.
“In the UK, the new Nationality and Borders Act 2022 threatens the very principle of refugee protection and offers protection on the grounds of how people arrive in the UK, rather than the war, terror and persecution a person may be fleeing from,” he said.
“The trajectory to create a web of hostile policies to make life as difficult as possible for those seeking protection continues
“This is an unspeakable disgrace and stain on our nation.
“Our UK Government is putting up barriers to prevent people finding the peace and safety they need, and robs them of the opportunity to contribute their skills and experience to the communities they live in and to rebuild their lives. People now face the prospect of transportation to Rwanda.”
Dr Greenshields added: “Next week is Refugee Week and I wanted to offer a prayer for refugees around the world, but find myself, in the name of the One who Himself was a refugee, calling on the UK Government for a change of heart and direction.
“They may feel their policy to be just and right but they dishonour God by their inaction, lack of compassion and disgraceful attempted solution to this critical situation.”
“We will not be deterred from doing the right thing.”Home secretary Priti Patel
Patel has insisted that access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, and not the “ability to pay people smugglers”.
“Earlier this year, I signed a world-leading Migration Partnership with Rwanda to see those arriving dangerously, illegally, or unnecessarily into the UK relocated to build their lives there,” she said.
“This will help break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life, while ensuring protection for the genuinely vulnerable.
“Access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers.
“The demands on the current system, the cost to the taxpayer, and the flagrant abuses are increasing, and the British public have rightly had enough.
“I have always said this policy will not be easy to deliver and am disappointed that legal challenge and last-minute claims have meant today’s flight was unable to depart.”
The home secretary also said that the Government will “not be deterred from doing the right thing”, as it looks to control the UK’s borders.
“It is very surprising that the European Court of Human Rights has intervened despite repeated earlier success in our domestic courts,” said Patel.
“These repeated legal barriers are similar to those we experience with other removals flights and many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next.
“We will not be deterred from doing the right thing and delivering our plans to control our nation’s borders. Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now.”