The foreign nationals have claimed in asylum tribunals that they will be persecuted in their home countries if deported owing to their alleged “conversion”.
The home secretary under UK law must deport foreign criminals sentenced to jail in the UK for at least 12 months. But the European Convention on Human Rights prevents removal where there are grounds to believe they would face torture or inhuman treatment if deported.
UK’s Times newspaper has analysed thousands of Upper Tribunal asylum judgments since 2018 and found many cases where Christian conversions are convincing judges to block deportations.
In one case a Bangladeshi man convicted of murdering his wife in UK evaded being deported after serving 12 years in prison by claiming he had converted to Christianity and would be at risk in Bangladesh, the Times said.
In another case an Iranian imprisoned for serious assault escaped deportation because he had covered his arms in tattoos of Christian images even though the judge was not convinced he was a Christian convert. The judge ruled that Iranian authorities would think he was a convert. Another Iranian who served time for sexual assault was allowed to stay in UK because he had a tattoo of a cross.
In one case a Pakistani overstayer argued that his evangelical preaching in London would put him at risk in Pakistan. It transpired he had never gone to church and simply handed out leaflets outside a tube station with a reverend who then vouched for the man’s Christian faith in the tribunal, according to the Times.
One Iranian man wrongly referred to Good Friday as “Black Friday” but still managed to escape deportation. Another asylum-seeker wrongly said Lent was a period of four weeks before Christmas when you “light a candle” and another so-called Christian convert got mixed up and told the tribunal he went to a synagogue, the Times learned.
A Church of England spokesperson told TOI: “Clergy are expected to uphold the law, just like any other citizen, and so the highest standards are expected of them in making truthful representations of character and engaging honestly with formal legal processes. Clearly we can never know 100%, which is why we support the home office in their ultimate duty to vet and decide applications.”