Jacob Rees-Mogg defended the government's plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda as an Easter story of redemption after the policy was criticised as depressing and ungodly by church leaders.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said in a scathing Easter Sunday address that the scheme must stand the judgment of God and that it cannot subcontract out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well, is the opposite of the nature of God, who himself took responsibility for our failures.
Welby's intervention came as the civil servant in charge of the Home Office said he did not have evidence to show that the plan to fly people 4,000 miles to Rwanda would act as a deterrent and therefore could not be sure it would be a good use of public money.
Rees-Mogg, minister for Brexit opportunities, said that the Church of England's most senior clergyman misunderstands the policy and that it was in fact an Easter story of redemption for Rwanda.
The former Commons leader said that the policy must be a good thing, and that the UK is giving an opportunity to Rwanda. Speaking on Radio 4's programme The World This Weekend, he said he misunderstands what the policy is trying to achieve, and that it isn't an abandonment of responsibility. It is a very difficult job, and it is in fact a taking-on.
The problem is that people are risking their lives in the hands of people traffickers to get into this country illegally. It is not the illegal bit of it, it is the encouragement of people traffickers that need to be stopped. He said that 90% of people coming in from the street are young men who are jumping the queue for others by coming via people traffickers. In doing so, they risk their lives and support organised crime. He said that we need to focus on legal routes into this country, of which there are quite a number.
Welby was joined in his criticism by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who described the policy as depressing and distressing In an Easter Sunday sermon at York Minster, Cottrell said: We can do better than this. We can do better than this because of what we see in Jesus Christ, the risen Christ, with a vision for our humanity where barriers are broken down and not new obstacles put in the path.
There is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker in law. It is the people who exploit them that we need to crack down on, not our sisters and brothers. We don't need to build more barriers and cower in the darkness of the shadows they create.
Do we want to continue to be known as a country that opens proper pathways for all who flee violence, conflict and oppression, not just those from Ukraine, but also those fleeing other conflicts and the effects of climate change?