Evangelism and Missions

Home Office accused of religious discrimination in asylum claims

A Home Office interpreter deliberately twisted an asylum seeker’s case and caused it to fail because he was from a different sect of Islam to the claimant.

This is the claim of Muzaffer Tahir who has sought asylum in the UK since 2013. He says his claim has been frustrated because his translator bore a personal grudge against his case. In an interview with Christian Today, Tahir, who is an Ahmadi Muslim fleeing Pakistan, said his interpreter named as Mr R Sadozai “intentionally [did] not want to properly translate”. Tahir said this was because Sadozai “belonged to another sect of Islam” and used the opportunity to deliberately jeopardise his case.

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The Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden, south London, is heavily guarded due to fears of attack.

The Ahmadiyya community is a sect of Islam who are heavily persecuted by mainstream interpretations because they do not think Muhammad was the final prophet. They believe Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the 19th century was a Messiah who sought to revitalise Islam and correct what he saw as errors that had developed.

Tahir said he is the victim of a severe “lack of professionalism” among home office staff that was highlighted in a recent report. Fleeing Persecution was compiled by the all-party group on religious freedom and the Asylum Advocacy Group (AAG). It points to a clear discrepancy between what the Home Office says in its guidance and the actual behaviour of interpreters in interview rooms.

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Muzaffer Tahir told his story to Christian Today’s Harry Farley

One solicitor quoted in the report said: “There is already sufficient and perfectly sound guidance formulated by the Home Office, and by notably the UNHCR…for good decision making in the area. But decision making continues to be very poor.”

The report criticised the “ignorance” of home office staff and said: “This report’s finding signal a lack of understanding and misperceptions of religion and belief among decision-makers working with the UK asylum system.”

Bishop Angaelos, chair of the AAG and head of the Coptic Church in the UK, told Christian Today: “At best it is ignorance and at worst we have heard occasions where it has been intentional persecution and an intentional undermining of the case.”

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Speaking at the launch of the report in Parliament, he said this was the exception and not the rule but “needs to be investigated at once”. In cases such as Tahir’s “it is a matter of life and death”, said Angaelos.

“Some interpreters are from another sect and they intentionally don’t want to properly translate,” Tahir told Christian Today. When asked whether he thought this had been a factor in why his case was thrown out, Tahir said: “Yes, I think so.”

Home Office interpreters are hired from private companies and many are Muslims from the mainstream sects of Islam that despise Ahmadis.

A Home Office spokesperson told Christian Today: “All asylum applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with the UK immigration rules.”

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