Cleverly cautions church leaders over ‘vouching’ for asylum claims of converts

Churches have been warned by James Cleverly not to allow asylum seekers to exploit the system by converting to Christianity.

In a message to church leaders at Easter, the Home Secretary said there is a “real difference” between welcoming a new member of the congregation and “vouching for a person in an asylum tribunal”.

His comments came after alkali attack suspect Abdul Ezedi was granted asylum by a judge who accepted he was a Christian convert despite concerns the convicted sex offender was a liar.

Ezedi’s body was pulled from the River Thames last month following a major manhunt launched after he was suspected of dousing his ex-girlfriend with alkali when he pounced on her and her children, aged eight and three, in Clapham, south London, in January.

Abdul Ezedi court case
Abdul Ezedi (left) being baptised (Judicial office/PA)

“We have met with the senior church leaders to explain Christian conversion is no guarantee of asylum being granted and we’ve stressed there is a real difference between welcoming new members to a flock and vouching for a person in an asylum tribunal.”

He added: “Allowing people to exploit the system risks detracting from the invaluable work Christians and the church do every day for our society – today of all days.”

Details of the Ezedi case were only revealed following media applications for immigration tribunal court papers.

Mr Cleverly indicated he backed greater transparency over asylum decisions.

Good Friday 2024
Justin Welby denied claims the Church of England is ‘subverting the asylum system’ (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has previously said there is “no evidence” to support claims the Church of England is “subverting the asylum system” by allowing spurious conversions to Christianity.

The church has been accused in recent months of allowing “industrial-scale” baptisms of migrants to assist with their asylum claims, allowing them to claim they would be persecuted in their home country because they are now Christians.

Earlier this month, the Most Rev Justin Welby told Times Radio he had seen “no evidence” of this occurring, only “assertions”.

He added: “We wrote to the Home Office and they said they had no evidence to show us.”

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