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The Church of England has come under pressure, including from the Home Secretary, following reports asylum seekers have converted to Christianity on a five-week course in a bid to avoid deportation. The Telegraph revealed Emad al-Swealmeen, 32, converted from Islam to Britain’s largest religion after his claim for asylum was rejected back in 2014.
Following the rejection, al-Swealmeen is said to have launched “appeal, after appeal, after appeal” and even had a legal challenge pending during his suicide bomb attack in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday.
The Iraqi was confirmed at Liverpool Cathedral in March 2017.
The broadsheet claims the Home Office now believes conversion is “standard practice” among those who are attempting “to game the asylum system”.
It is believed being a part of the Christian community can show an asylum seeker could be persecuted if they return to their home country.
It can also be used as evidence to suggest an asylum seeker has successfully integrated into Western society.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, 56, has previously implored Brits to be “generous” to migrants fleeing conflict and has suggested people should remember Jesus was a refugee.
But Priti Patel, 49, slammed the system.
The MP for Witham, who succeeded Sajid Javid as Home Secretary in July 2019, said: “It’s a complete merry-go-round.
“And it’s been exploited.
“It has been exploited quite frankly by a whole professional legal services industry that has based itself rights of appeal, going to the courts day in, day out at the expense of the taxpayers through legal aid.”
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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Sam Ashworth-Hayes, director of studies at the London-based Henry Jackson Society, added: “We know that people are willing to lie to win asylum, up to and including faking religious conversions.
“While the Home Office should be rooting out fake converts applying for asylum, the Church of England has been hopelessly naïve in accepting so many converts from migrant backgrounds and so readily offering them support in their asylum applications.
“It’s one thing to offer a graceful welcome to those in need.
“It’s another to be taken for fools.
“When immigration tribunals are complaining about ‘improbably large’ numbers of converts and clergy publicly stating that people are pretending to convert to exploit the system, something is clearly going wrong.”
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Claims asylum seekers have conned the system have also been confirmed by the former Dean of Liverpool and a Merseyside-based Muslim convert to Christianity.
Reverend Pete Wilcox said: “I can’t think of a single example of somebody who already had British citizenship converting here with us from Islam to Christianity.”
Mohammad Eghtedarian, a convert who later served as a curate at the city’s cathedral, claimed: “There are many people abusing the system – I’m not ashamed of saying that.”
According to the Telegraph, a spokesman from the Church of England responded by saying: “Churches welcome all people and celebrate with those who choose to make a commitment to Christ, but of course there is also a need for discernment.
“Just as Jesus advised his disciples to be ‘wise as serpents and innocent as doves’, clergy must be confident that those seeking baptism fully understand what it signifies, as an unrepeatable sacramental act of initiation which ushers an individual into the Church.
“However, it is not the role of clergy to establish the legitimacy of asylum claims and to assess security implications.
“We are not aware of any evidence to suggest a widespread correlation between conversion to Christianity, or any other faith, and abuse of the asylum system.”
A spokesman from Liverpool Cathedral added: “Liverpool Cathedral has developed robust processes for discerning whether someone might be expressing a genuine commitment to faith.
“These include requirements for regular attendance, alongside taking part in a recognised Christian basics course.
“We would expect someone to be closely connected with the community for at least two years before we would consider supporting an application.”