Asylum Applications Should be Judged on the Basis of Law not Religious Doctrine

Apr 25, 2019 by

by Ewelina U. Ochab, Oxford Human Rights Hub:

In March 2019, a Home Office letter rejecting an asylum application made the headlines of the biggest media outlets in the UK and abroad. It was not the case itself that attracted this attention but the arguments in the letter that have weighed in on the debate whether Christianity is a peaceful religion. The response appears to have failed to consider the facts and apply the law, focusing instead on irrelevant debates about religious doctrine.

The applicant, an Iranian national who allegedly converted to Christianity, reportedly sought asylum in the UK out of fear of persecution in Iran. It is well reported on that converts to Christianity in Iran often face severe persecution. The persecution affects their ability to practice their new religion. In some cases, this persecution is so severe that the converts must flee the country out of fear for their lives. According to the Home Office letter, in his application, the Iranian Christian argued that he converted to Christianity as he believed Christianity was a religion of peace. The Home Office letter cited passages from the Bible and claimed that ‘these examples are inconsistent with [the applicants] claim that [he] converted to Christianity after discovering it is a ‘peaceful’ religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge.’

Since the emergence of the letter, the Home Office has not disputed the authenticity of the letter, however, it suggested that the response was not in accordance with its policy.

The question is then what is wrong with the response. Instead of considering the facts and applying the law and procedure in considering the asylum application, the Home Office letter engaged in a debate on whether Christianity was a peaceful religion. A debate that is theological in nature and outside of the scope of the work of the Home Office.

The content of the letter demonstrates a glaring lack of understanding of the law and procedure, and what, in accordance with the law and procedure, the caseworker was asked to do.

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