STEPHEN GLOVER: Has our hand-wringing Archbishop ever spared a thought for victims of crimes committed here by illegal migrants?
Some have taken issue with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops for opposing the Government’s plans to deal with migrants crossing the Channel.
But I think we should accept that Justin Welby and other prelates are acting in good faith. Moreover, it is certain —though some Tories may not like to face this fact — that Jesus spoke up constantly for the poor and downtrodden.
‘Blessed are the poor’ is one of Our Lord’s beatitudes, according to St Luke’s Gospel. (St Matthew amends this to ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’.) Throughout his ministry, Jesus was on the side of the poor in what was a generally impoverished society in which most people fell into that category.
So the other day I nodded to myself when I read the remarks of the Archbishop’s spokesman, after the bishops had tried to scupper the Government’s flagship Illegal Migration Bill in the House of Lords.
According to this spokesman: ‘The bishops in the Lords will continue to speak out for those who are fleeing violence and persecution and seeking safety — and keep calling for an asylum system that reflects our values, moral responsibilities and place within the international community.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury (pictured) at the entrance to Westminster Abbey ahead of the King’s coronation
Fair enough. One can’t easily quarrel with that. The bishops are rooting for the victims, or for people they choose to see as victims, and such sympathy is in the Christian tradition.
The trouble is that Welby and Co are dependably selective. They concentrate on one kind of victims — foreigners crossing the Channel. They seldom, if ever, spare a thought for innocent British victims.
I was struck by this thought when I read an incredible statistic, which practically made my eyes pop out of my head. According to the National Crime Agency, 80 Albanian migrants — some of whom may have been here legally — have been sentenced to a collective 130 years in jail in the first four months of this year alone.
These people have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, rape, violent disorder, firearm offences, kidnap, causing death by dangerous driving, burglary and the illegal production of cannabis.
A second statistic, revealed by the Home Office, was equally mind-boggling. Some 12,800 Albanians who entered the UK illegally have broken their bail conditions in 15 months from the beginning of last year. In all, 44,957 migrants of all nationalities breached their bail conditions during this period.
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Let’s stick with the Albanians for a bit. It appears thousands of them are slipping away into the wider community and, unless charged with a crime, may well never cross the authorities’ radar again.
Some might say that the figure of 80 Albanians being found guilty of serious crimes in four months isn’t a high one. I disagree. After all, the clear up rate of burglary in London and many other parts of the country is less than 5 per cent, and of muggings even less. Many culprits will have slipped through the net.
Moreover, the cost of imprisoning the 80 Albanians unfortunate, or careless, enough to be apprehended is £57,000 per criminal per year (more than the fees at Eton) and £20 million to house all these offenders for their time in jail. This is no small thing.
Another interesting fact is that there are more Albanians in prison — 1,393 at the latest count — than any other foreign nationality. Under a new agreement made by the Government, Albanians convicted of more than four years in jail face deportation. Britain is paying £14 million to upgrade Albanian prisons.
I don’t want to pick on Albanians, most of whom are doubtless very nice people. Indeed, I have a friend who employs an Albanian woman who is both saintly and hard-working.
It is also the case that, as a result of a deal done by the Home Office with the government of Albania, the number of illegal migrants emanating from that country has fallen dramatically from about a quarter of the overall total last year.
Nonetheless, it can be reasonably supposed that a proportion of those from all countries who have crossed the Channel in small boats, and continue to do so, are not as honest and law-abiding as, say, your average Church of England bishop.
This emphasises the need to re-establish control of our borders. For although it has recently been pointed out that many more legal migrants come to this country than illegal ones, those in the former category can be properly checked, and have in almost all cases come here to work rather than rape, steal and grow cannabis.
Not that I suggest that a majority of the second category of illegal migrants are hell-bent on a life of crime. Of course not. But it would appear that the thoughts of a minority of them are tending in that direction.
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A group of fifty migrants were pictured being brought into Dover marina by Border Force vessel Ranger, after the group had refused help from a French Navy warship (pictured: a Border Force vessel in Dover last week)
Every crime has a victim, sometimes more than one. And yet I am prepared to bet that no archbishop or bishop has ever stood up in the House of Lords to express one iota of compassion for a victim of a crime committed by an illegal immigrant. Nor is it likely that any high ecclesiastic will ever do so.
Justin Welby has probably never spared a thought for those who have been burgled — or worse — by someone who had flitted across the Channel, jumped bail and vanished into the general population. Nor do I suppose it has ever occurred to him that an illegal immigrant, whether virtuous or not, will put extra pressure on hard-pressed public services funded by home-grown Britons.
In other words, victimhood is really only of interest to the bishops as it applies to people crossing the Channel. Their agenda is at least partly driven by political considerations. Christian compassion should surely not pick and choose.
Am I being unfair? I suppose if Justin Welby were with us now, he’d insist that he has agreed illegal migration across the Channel should be stopped, and has produced some proposals to that end.
All I can say is that his ideas — offering alternative legal routes, and speeding up the backlog of asylum seekers —don’t seem likely to stem the ever rising tide. Even he has admitted in a newspaper article that ‘no solution can stop Channel crossings entirely’.
I don’t suggest the Government is making rapid progress, but you can’t fault it for trying. I remain sceptical about sending migrants to Rwanda for the simple reason that it is a virtual dictatorship.
But it must be almost unendurable for the Government to be lectured by the Archbishop of Canterbury for behaving immorally — his word — when his own moral preoccupations are focused on one lot of victims to the exclusion of others.
In many other areas, of course, the bishops are out of kilter not only with the wider population but even their own congregations. For example, nearly all of them are believed to have voted Remain in 2016, whereas, according to one piece of fascinating research, 66 per cent of churchgoing Anglicans voted Leave.
Is it possible, even likely, that Justin Welby makes judgments about the effects of illegal migration not so much through the prism of Jesus’s teaching as the editorial pages of the Guardian newspaper? Those crossing the Channel in boats are not the only victims.
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