Suffolk Bishop criticises Government Rwanda plan

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese.

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, has accused the Government of 'punishing victims.' - Credit: LUCY TAYLOR

A senior Suffolk clergyman has accused the Government of "punishing victims" over its plan to deport failed asylum seekers to Rwanda. 

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, joined other church leaders who have condemned the policy as the first flight to the African country was due to leave on Tuesday. 

He said: “This is a policy that targets and punishes the victims, not the perpetrators. 

“These are refugees fleeing danger, people whose lives have been torn apart by war, conflict or oppression, fleeing for their lives and many are longing to come to this country to join family and friends. 

“People do not risk the perilous passage, that takes the last money they have, except to seek safety.” 

Part of the reasoning behind the scheme is to deter migrants from crossing the Channel illegally in flimsy small boats, many of whom are being smuggled by people traffickers. 

Officials at the Home Office believe the removal plan, involving a one-way journey to Rwanda, is in the public interest and the crossings must be stopped. 

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However, Bishop Martin questioned whether the deportation flights would act as a deterrence, adding: “The perpetrators - those that run these illegal crossings, who benefit financially, in trafficking people - are not, I believe, going to be deterred by this policy. 

“They will continue to exploit desperate people clinging to hope, who will be taken in by the traffickers’ false promises of safe passage.” 

He called instead for a "means to provide safe passage for refugees" to enable asylum claims to be processed in the UK. 

He said: "We are capable of doing that, in partnership with other countries, as we have seen in the responses, albeit limited, to the situations in Syria and Afghanistan. 

“The response to the war in Ukraine shows just how many people in this country want to reach out to help those who are fleeing for safety.”