Calls for more scrutiny on religious conversion on asylum applications

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Mon 05 Feb 2024 by Tola Mbakwe

The Home Secretary is expected to consider whether laws need to be changed to better scrutinise the claims of asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity.

It comes after chemical attack suspect Abdul Ezedi was found to have converted to Christianity as part of his asylum application. The 35-year-old, originally from Afghanistan, is believed to have attacked a mother and two children in south London last week.

On Monday, Home Secretary James Cleverly is expected to receive a full report on Ezedi, who is also a convicted sex offender.

A government source said the aim is to find out if it is “possible to credibly substantiate the validity of a religious conversion”.

The ordeal has led to concerns that some refugees aren’t having genuine conversions.

Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs Committee and a former minister, told the Daily Telegraph: “We have got to have a much more rigorous scrutiny process for those claiming to have converted and the basis on which it would be dangerous to return them to their home countries.”

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman has also accused the Church of “facilitating industrial-scale bogus asylum claims”.

Meanwhile, it’s been reported that around one in seven refugees currently housed on the Bibby Stockholm barge are said to be attending church.

David Rees, a church elder, toldBBC Radio 4 Sundaythat 40 asylum seekers on the barge in Dorset had converted to Christianity, adding that some had done so in their home countries or while on an Alpha Course.

“Local faith leaders have visited the barge and work with the council and the barge management in looking after these guys,” he said.

“Obviously, we need to make sure that they believe in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and repent of their sins and also they want to start a new life in the church.

“So those are the sort of questions that we ask them, and they have to give a public testimony, at their baptism, which they did in their native language, and it was translated into English.

“There were no qualms at all about the content of that testimony, which was clear and conclusive about their faith in Jesus Christ.”

The Home Office said its caseworkers have a system in place to ensure people aren’t scamming their way into claiming asylum based on religious beliefs. They are directed to take into consideration their knowledge of their religion, the timing of the conversion and participation in activities organised by the church.

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