Top church cleric criticizes UK plan to send migrants to Rwanda
The UK flag. /AP

The UK flag. /AP

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England's highest cleric, has criticized the British government's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda to process their claims for refuge.

In his Easter Day sermon, Justin Welby added his voice to the widespread criticism the scheme has sparked, saying "subcontracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well, like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures".

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral in southeast England, Welby said that while "the details are for politics and politicians, the principle must stand the judgement of God and it cannot".

Welby said that sending asylum seekers overseas posed “serious ethical questions".

Such a move "is the opposite of the nature of God”, the church leader said.

The United Kingdom and Rwanda on Tuesday announced that they had reached an agreement to send some people who arrive in the UK as stowaways on trucks, or in small boats, to the East African country, where their asylum claims will be processed and, if successful, they will stay.

The deal for which the UK has paid Rwanda 158 million U.S. dollars leaves many questions unanswered, including the final cost and how asylum seekers will be chosen. The UK says children, and families with children, will not be sent to Rwanda.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) condemned the scheme as an "egregious breach of international law" and "contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party government says the plan will discourage people from making dangerous attempts to cross the English Channel, and it will put people-smuggling gangs out of business.

(With input from agencies)

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