The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has accused the UK Government of “dishonouring God” by continuing to put up barriers against vulnerable people fleeing conflict. 

Speaking ahead of Refugee Week next week, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields said the new Nationality and Borders Act makes life very difficult for people seeking the safety that they desperately need. 

He described the government’s pursuit of hostile policies, including forcing asylum seekers to go to Rwanda on a one-way ticket, as an “unspeakable disgrace and a stain on our nation”. 

There is uncertainty now over the legality of the UK Government's policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda after last-minute legal action prevented the first flight from taking off. 

The flight was cancelled after an intervention from the European Court of Human Rights led to fresh challenges in the UK courts

The Church of Scotland is opposed to any policy that "exploits people's fears of the outsider" and congregations work hard to support and welcome people into their communities. 

The Herald:

Migrants are processed at Dover

Dr Greenshields said: “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. 

“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.” 

He added: “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. 

“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.” 

The Herald:

The Hope Hotel in Kigsali, Rwanda, where the UK wants to transfer migrants 

Dr Greenshields continued: “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. 

“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.”

The Home Office has been approached for comment