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Ex-Archbishop of Canterbury slams ‘dishonourable’ Nationality and Borders Bill

28 Feb 2022 3 minute read
Rowan Williams visits The National Assembly for Wales. Picture by the National Assembly (CC BY 2.0).

A former Archbishop of Canterbury has slammed the “dishonourable” Nationality and Borders Bill.

The Swansea-born religious leader has backed an open letter from over 1,000 faith leaders which urges the UK Government to reconsider the move.

Rowan Williams, who is co-chair of an independent Constitutional Commission to consider Wales’ future, has taken aim at the Bill in an article for The Times.

He argued that to “punish people who are already victims” is one of the “most morally questionable things we can do in any context”.

The Bill has also been sharply criticised by the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

Wales’ Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt MS has written to the UK Government highlighting serious concerns.

In a seven-page letter to Kevin Foster MP, Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, she stated that as it stands it contains ten critical clauses which she believes will have “unintended but severely damaging effects in Wales”.

The Welsh minister said the introduction of accommodation centres is fundamentally incompatible with Wales’ status as a ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ as they prevent an asylum seeker’s ‘effective integration’ from the moment they arrive in Wales.

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts has said that the Nationality and Borders Bill will “turn the UK into one of the most anti-refugee countries in the world”.

Welsh Refugee Council has launched a petition calling on the Welsh Government to oppose the bill, saying that it was “cruel, punitive, and inhumane towards people whose hopes are to live safe and feel free”.

‘Appalling risks’ 

In The Times, Rowan Williams wrote: “One of the most morally questionable things we can do in any context is to punish people who are already victims. It cannot be said too often that the overwhelming majority of those who seek asylum in the UK do so because of threats serious enough to force them into taking appalling risks.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill effectively proposes that we come down hardest on those most helpless, those who resort to ‘irregular’ routes to reach the UK — oblivious to the fact that these people are likely to be among the most desperate: those who risk drowning at sea or freezing in temporary camps on borders.

“That desperation has everything to do with the lack of safe and accessible routes for refugees. The answer is not a set of punitive rules aimed at gratifying the knee-jerk prejudices of a vocal minority, or at reinforcing the credentials of government in the eyes of that minority.”

He added: “If this legislation goes forward, it will represent, the open letter says, a ‘dishonourable’ response to the extreme need that drives desperate people to mortally risky decisions.

“As authoritarian brutality, religious persecution, environmental degradation and chaotic civil strife continue to proliferate across the globe, punishing the victims of these ominous trends without addressing their root causes and acting to secure stability is a shabby and short-term response.”

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Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
2 years ago

So do you support this piece of Tory legislation then? Looking at the history of the UK it has for many centuries been welcoming (to a greater or lesser extent) of refugees. Nation of Sanctuary is, presumably, a modern take on this but from a Welsh perspective. My personal experience of peope in Wales (OK not a scientific study!) has been one of friendliness and acceptance. That is the sort of Nation I have felt we are. I hope that I am not living in Cloud Cookoo Land.

2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Hope that your sentence does not soon read “the nation we were”. My obection is soley on this “Wales should be a beacon.” I will accept a referendum result.

2 years ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

Kind of you to offer “acceptance” of a democratic decision. Most ultra rightists hide their xenophobia behind a supposed love of “democracy

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