Edward Malnick and Charles Hymas, The Telegraph, February 3, 2024
Suella Braverman and Dame Priti Patel have hit out at Britain’s churches over their alleged support for “bogus” asylum claims.
Writing for The Telegraph, Mrs Braverman said that during her time as home secretary she “became aware of churches around the country facilitating industrial-scale bogus asylum claims”.
Separately, Dame Priti, also a former home secretary, accused church leaders of “political activism” in their approach to asylum seekers, claiming that religious institutions supported cases “without merit”.
The clergy’s role in offering conversions to asylum seekers and support for their applications is likely to be considered by ministers in the wake of the chemical attack in London that injured a mother, two children and 10 others.
Abdul Ezedi, suspected of carrying out a chemical attack in Clapham, was twice denied asylum before being allowed to stay after claiming he had converted from Islam and that his life would be in danger if he returned to Afghanistan.
A government source said: “There are clearly general questions about whether it is really possible to credibly substantiate the solidity of a religious conversion, particularly where that view might carry important implications.”
In 2016, the then dean of the cathedral said he had converted 200 asylum seekers in four years, but added: “I can’t think of a single example of somebody who already had British citizenship converting here with us from Islam to Christianity.”
Dame Priti said: “In that particular case [Al Swealmeen] and any other examples where Christian conversion is involved it is right that those cases are scrutinised and that there is a degree of honesty in establishments, including the Church of England as to what their motivations were.
“It’s no coincidence that religious leaders are constantly speaking out against any reforms and work introduced by us as Conservatives in this area. “We are seeing it actively with the Rwanda Bill. Political activism is coming in from these quarters. It is important that the public question their motivations.”
Mrs Braverman said: “Attend mass once a week for a few months, befriend the vicar, get your baptism date in the diary and, bingo, you’ll be signed off by a member of clergy that you’re now a God-fearing Christian who will face certain persecution if removed to your Islamic country of origin. It has to stop.”
A Church of England spokesman said: “It is the role of the Home Office, and not the church, to vet asylum seekers and judge the merits of their individual cases.”
The church was not aware of any links with Ezedi.