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UK News

Theresa May asked why Asia Bibi wasn't offered asylum in UK

by Cara Bentley

Asia Bibi, a Catholic Pakistani woman, was acquitted of a charge of blasphemy agaisnt Islam last October but was not able to leave the country until this week because the fear of her being killed by Islamist extremists who disagreed with her appeal against the death sentence being granted.

Rehman Chisti, the Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham in Kent, quit his role as Vice Chairman of the Conservative party and Trade Envoy to Pakistan last November partly because of the UK's response to Asia Bibi's case, which he considered morally disappointing.

During Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions, Chisti said: "I know the Prime Minister will welcome the news that Asia Bibi, who was persecuted for her faith, is on her way to Canada, who have offered her sanctuary. Can I ask this question to the Prime Minister, and I think everyone wants to know this answer from the Prime Minister, why is it that Canada offered sanctuary to her and the United Kingdom did not offer sanctuary in the United Kingdom, and that future such cases of religious freedom will be looked at differently by the United Kingdom?"

Theresa May replied to the House: "Can I join my own honourable friend in welcoming the reports that Asia Bibi has been able to travel freely and is now able to make decisions about her own future. Our concern was always the safety and security of Asia Bibi.

"We were in close contact with the Government of Pakistan but a range of international partners who were considering the offers that would be available to Asia Bibi. Canada made this offer and we felt it was right and appropriate that we supported the offer that Canada had made. I think that's important.

"He says we have a proud record of welcoming people here who've been persecuted because of their faith and and we will continue with that record but in individual cases like this, I think it's important for international partners to work together with the key aim constantly of ensuring that the safety and security and best interests of the individual are what are put first and foremost."

Chisti said in his resignation letter last year: "What I found shocking, is that the British Government is failing to put into practise the core values that our country stands for; religious freedom, justice, morally doing the right thing, and that when we see injustice where an individual's life is in clear danger and they have been persecuted for their faith, we do all that we can to help them.

"The Government should not wait to see if another country offers sanctuary, we should have had the conviction to lead on this matter and offer sanctuary ourselves straight away."

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