Comment by Archbishop Angaelos on a Home Office Response to an Iranian Asylum Seeker

Coptic Orthodox Church UK – 22/3/19

It is with great concern that I read reports from various sources yesterday regarding a letter from the Home Office rejecting an Iranian asylum seeker, and convert to Christianity, based on, at best a complete and utter misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Christian Scripture, and at worst an intentional manipulation of the text to justify the rejection of this vulnerable individual.

Home Office process and procedure on asylum issues, especially pertaining to religious converts, has been a source of ongoing conversation with the Home Office for a number of years. Through our Asylum Advocacy Group, which I founded and convene, we are working with the Home Office on a training programme due to be implemented within the coming months for caseworkers which take into account incidents such as these, and many more like it.

This particular incident needs a thorough investigation because while it has been accepted by a spokesperson from the Home Office as ‘not in accordance with our policy’, it must be determined whether this is merely out of misunderstanding or a proactive attempt to adversely affect the application of someone whose life may very literally be at risk. It must also be ascertained as to whether religious discrimination is at work, as there is no place for partiality within a Government that seeks to promote equality, and abides by Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights among other agreements.

We have been told on numerous occasions that the Home Office is not even in a position to ask whether an employee, caseworker or contractor has any religious affiliation at all. Taking this into consideration, it now is astounding that such brash comments about a person’s religious belief can be made by an employee or contractor of that same institution.

Since yesterday, other examples have also arisen of similar malpractices when it comes to misrepresenting Scripture and rejecting asylum claims on those grounds, and so I do hope that these are also looked at in their entirety, and not a single case in isolation.

I look forward to our ongoing work with the Home Office as I commend the faithful and professional practice of the vast majority of Home Office staff and contractors.

Finally, we must realize the extent of these actions, and that they have a bearing on people of faith who are potentially vulnerable in their state of origin, and vulnerable here in Britain as asylum seekers, and for this, we must take great care to ensure that such violations do not go undetected or untreated.

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