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MP who accused Welby of asylum 'scamming' pledges to work with churches to guard against faked conversions

by Will Hobbs
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The MP who accused Justin Welby of scamming taxpayers by harvesting false asylum claims says the Home Office needs to work with church denominations to establish guidance on assessing asylum seekers claiming conversion to Christianity.

Clapham acid attack suspect Abdul Ezedi's claim was granted after two rejections from the Home Office, on the basis of a conversion to Christianity via a free church organization.

In a discussion hosted by the Religious Media Centre that featured church leaders and refugee charity CEOs, Tory MP Tim Loughton, the son of a Church of England minister, urged various denominations to develop guidance on how to assess the genuineness of a conversion claim.

"The Church of England does have guidance, which is good. I just think that guidance needs looking at again, but certainly all the other contributions we've had from the free churches, this does appear to be a gap. And I think because this is a very live issue, and it's unlikely to be going away anytime soon, it is something that the other churches probably do need to look at and that needs to be done in association with the home office."

Refugee charity CEO and broadcaster Krish Kandiah argued that churches cannot shoulder responsibility for the crimes or legitimacy of asylum claims, putting forward that the home office alone could make that decision on a case.

"Ultimately, evidence even from a senior church member is not determinative. If the task of drawing conclusions from such evidence rests with the decision-maker, it is the home office official. A job reference is always given in good faith, but you're not responsible ultimately for what that person then goes on and does."

However, Loughton responded that the home office, including in the case of Ezedi, can and has been overruled by independent tribunals based on evidence from clergy of Christian conversion.

The MP for East Worthing and Shoreham pledged to work alongside churches to establish a uniform system for all churches to make every effort to safeguard against Ezedi's case repeating.

"I often get criticism from constituents trying to get their children into church schools, where there are some quite stringent hurdles that have to be crossed before you will be considered for entry to those schools. So it happens elsewhere in the faith community. There doesn't seem to be consistency of standards of scrutiny within the churches."


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