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Home Secretary to discuss asylum bid for 15-year-old Pakistani Christian at risk of death for apostasy

by Donna Birrell
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The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is to meet representatives of the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, to discuss an asylum bid for a Pakistani Christian girl at risk of death for apostasy.

Maira Shahbaz was 14 when she was abducted while walking home in Madina Town in Punjab province in April 2020. She was bundled into a car at gunpoint, forced to convert to Islam and marry her abductor, Mohamad Nakash, a middle-aged man, already married with two children.

Maira alleges that Nakash drugged her, forced her to abandon Christianity, raped her repeatedly and recorded it to blackmail her.

After a lengthy court process, Maira escaped Nakash's home at night and went into hiding. Since then, groups of extremists have gone door-to-door looking for her as they now consider her an apostate and worthy of being killed. 

During questions to the Home Secretary on Monday 7th June, Sir Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, asked Priti Patel to meet him and a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need to discuss the case.

Ms Patel replied: "My right honourable friend raises this incredibly important case and in fact I have been working with colleagues in the House on this case for a considerable period of time. I would be very happy to meet with him and others. 

"There have been some barriers in the past around this case, but I do want to give assurance that we are proactively looking at all the help we can provide."

Sir Edward said: "Maira is a 15-year-old Christian from Pakistan, raped, abducted… and now in hiding. We need to help her."

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition from ACN calling on Boris Johnson to grant asylum to Maira and in February, an open letter was sent to the Prime Minister backing the asylum bid. It was supported by more than 30 MPs, peers, bishops and leaders of charities and human rights organisations.

Fionn Shiner from Aid to the Church in Need told Premier he welcomes news of a meeting:

"We're absolutely delighted with this development. And we're very grateful to Priti Patel and the government for giving us this opportunity and being willing to hear us out. It's a step in the right direction. We don't know what will come from the meeting, but it's certainly something we're feeling very positive about."

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