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a very political Easter Sunday in English churches

On April 14, the United Kingdom signed an agreement which provides for the return of illegal migrants arriving in England to Rwanda, a third country considered safe by London. A strategy that does not support the highly respected Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest representative of the Anglican Church (after Queen Elizabeth II).

During Easter Sunday mass, he took advantage of his sermon to say what he thought of it: “There are serious ethical questionssays the Archbishop, the principle must resist the judgment of God and it cannot. He cannot bear the weight of the national responsibility of our country formed by Christian values, because outsourcing our responsibilities even to a country that seeks to do good like Rwanda is the opposite of God’s nature. “

Justin Welby isn’t the only religious leader who has criticized the measure. The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell also went there with his little comment. This idea of ​​not treating asylum seekers with “dignity” and “compassion” is “so depressing and heartbreaking” according to him. Before the archbishops, more than 150 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN had denounced the agreement, fulminating: we are no longer talking about men but “of human cargo to be shipped”. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is also studying the text to assess its legality.

Reactions from NGOs, religious and, more surprisingly, civil servants. According to the British media, we are witnessing a “mutiny”. Some employees of the Ministry of the Interior, which must put in place the agreement to return migrants, are against it. According to the unions, they are ready to quit their job to be transferred elsewhere, to another ministry or to go on strike, in the form of “massive walkouts” in the next few days. Even the department’s top official, Matthew Rycroft, wrote in a letter that he doubted the deal’s “chilling effect”.

To overcome these objections, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, did not use the soft method.

Despite the reluctance, she launched a “ministerial directive”, a mechanism which makes it possible to override the disagreements of his close collaborators and to have the agreement accepted, by force. In 30 years, the Ministry of the Interior had seen the use of this directive only once.

Are all migrants arriving in England affected? It’s not very clear. The British government indicates that with this agreement, it wants to curb Channel crossings, which have been on the rise since Brexit: 28,500 migrants entered the United Kingdom by this route in 2021, three times more than in 2020 (8,466 ) and 15 times more than in 2019 (1,843). This year, since January, already 6,000 asylum seekers have arrived on the English coast.

This crossing is very dangerous, we remember in particular this terrible shipwreck which killed 27 people last November. This measure “will reduce illegal immigration, save lives, break the economic model of smugglers”according to Piti Pratel.

Are concerned in the first place, the single men, whatever their nationality, arrived illegally on the British territory. It is not known whether Ukrainians are targeted. It is often women and children who come and they currently have legal pathways into the UK.

This measure will be expensive: Great Britain promises 120 million pounds sterling (about 145 million euros) to Rwanda and between 20,000 and 30,000 pounds (about 35,000 euros) per person for the flight to Rwanda and the first three months of accommodation on site. That is the financial cost. Boris Johnson may not yet have measured the political cost.

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