Back in 2010, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears, newly elected MP, a church group contacted me asking for help. The husband of a local woman was due to be deported back to a newly joined eastern European EU member state. “Why?”, I enquired. It turned out he had been convicted on four occasions for burglary – the last time resulted in a prison sentence for aggravation. The church group claimed they could help him find both God and penitence and, with their commitment, he would be a good Christian. There was nothing that could be done for them or him and, happily for the safety of the 100,000 or so people who live here in Wyre Forest, he was duly deported.
This story is at the forefront of my mind after the extraordinary revelations last week of the Clapham acid attacker. Abdul Ezedi, who entered the UK illegally a few years ago, and failed two asylum appeals because of his double sex offences, was given leave to remain after a priest “converted” him to Christianity.
I have no hesitation to trust the sincerity of both my local church group, and the priest who undertook Ezedi’s miraculous conversion. But I can’t help thinking that there may be a certain cynicism behind the actions of those who benefit from well-meaning people. The evidence, it seems, backs this up.
Apparently, there are vanishingly few British Muslims coming forward for conversion. But in what can only be described as an astonishing mass seeing-of-the-light, thousands of Muslims who arrived here illegally are now seeking conversion to Christianity. For them, it means they may be persecuted if returned to their former countries where religious discrimination is rife, thus supporting their claims for asylum and permanent residency.
As it turns out, though, many need not worry. Ezedi, apparently, couldn’t be returned to Afghanistan anyway, as we have no returns treaty with them, and it is deemed unsafe. Indeed, the Home Office deems a lot of countries unsafe – including Turkey. Bear this in mind when you book your summer break to Bodrum (although the Foreign Office only advises against one or two regions).
It is right that asylum seekers are helped. We help Hong Kong citizens, Afghans, Syrians, and others. But it is not right that our citizens are put at risk because the system we have in place is being gamed by all sorts of people. Genuine asylum seekers will always be helped, but we must not be put at risk through misguided good intentions.