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Home Office urged to change asylum process for Christian converts

by Antony Bushfield

It is after a major new report found believers were being asked to name the Ten Commandments or remember Bible verses as part of tests to root out fake claims.

People claiming asylum in the UK are being turned away because current guidelines on "basic knowledge" mean staff ask questions such as 'when is Pentecost?', the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief said.

Launching the report, co-chair Baroness Berridge, told Premier: "Decisions that caseworkers are attempting to make are incredibly difficult nuanced decisions and they've obviously got numerous cases in front of them.

"It's about equipping them with the understanding and the training and support to be able to make the best decisions they can, particularly at the first attempt."

She accepted it was "hard to assess" someone's faith but added: "One thing we do know is that Bible trivia isn't the answer and instead we should ask people about their experience and ask them why they've left their faith community."

The report was produced in conjunction with The Asylum Advocacy Group run by Bishop Angaelos from the Coptic Church in the UK.

He told Premier: "Looking at refugees, they can't just be seen as a problem, they are humans, individuals who are vulnerable.

"They are leaving everything they know and understand and going to somewhere, that to them, might appear hostile.

"I don't think people who feel protected, prosperous and safe in their own countries will want to leave.

"If they're leaving they're leaving for a reason".

The report makes ten recommendations to the Home Office including keeping more accurate figures for how many claims are accepted and rejected on the grounds of religion.

Training should also be provided for Home Office staff dealing with the claims, the report suggested.

Because of restrictions on government departments in the run up to the EU referendum the Home Office was unable to comment but said while it is reasonable to expect the claimant to demonstrate some understanding of the faith, caseworkers are trained to ask questions tailored to the individual case.

It added that guidance on the interviewing and consideration of religious claims is regularly reviewed.

Baroness Berridge speaking to Premier's Antony Bushfield live on the News Hour:

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