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Asia Bibi and the breakdown of our Asylum System

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Tim Dieppe investigates why Asia Bibi has not been offered asylum by the British government.

Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan prompting massive demonstrations across the country. She is currently hiding for fear of her life. Her lawyer has had to flee the country. It is hard to imagine a more deserving case for asylum. Yet the government has refused to make this offer amidst security concerns. It is now apparent that British policy is being dictated by Islamist threats.

 

The case of Asia Bibi

Has there ever been a more deserving case for asylum than that of the Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi? After spending eight years on death row in Pakistan, Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s supreme court on 31 October. She had been sentenced to death on a charge of insulting Muhammad following a row with some Muslim colleagues over a cup of water.

The verdict prompted massive protests by Islamists in Pakistan calling for Asia Bibi to be hanged. Mrs Bibi’s lawyer has fled Pakistan fearing for his life. Asia Bibi herself remains in Pakistan, in hiding for her life. This is clearly not sustainable. At some point she will be found and killed. She and her family need to be offered asylum so that they can leave the country safely.

But Britain has so far failed to offer asylum. Why is this?

 

Admissions in Parliament

There was a revealing exchange about Asia Bibi in the Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on 13 November. The committee, chaired by Tom Tugendhat MP, was questioning Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service.

Tugendhat stated that Asia Bibi’s case represented “one of the clearest examples of free conscience being challenged today.” Tugendhat then explained that he has heard that the Home Office has suggested that Asia Bibi should be offered asylum since she qualifies on absolutely every ground, but that this has not been done because the head of staff in Pakistan is concerned about the security implications for staff in the British High Commission in Pakistan.

Tugendhat then asked: "Does that not raise the question that either staff should be withdrawn or security increased, because otherwise effectively British policy is being dictated to by a mob?"

Sir Simon does not deny that asylum has not been offered because of concerns about the reaction in Pakistan.

Later Tugendhat asks: “Are you saying that the policy of the British government is to hope that someone else offers her asylum.”

Sir Simon responds: “No not to hope, Mr Chairman, to work with others. If the objective is to protect a life and some other country can offer a more complete safe harbour than the UK, why wouldn’t the UK be open to working with that country.”

The exchange concluded in this way:

Tugendhat: “So we are not making an offer because we are afraid of the reaction.”

McDonald: “I am not saying in public exactly what we are doing, because it would be played straight back ….”

Tugendhat: “Would you like to go into private session.”

McDonald: “Yes I think it would help to go into private session.”

At this point the meeting went into private session for an extended period.

 

British policy dictated by a mob

What this reveals is that, as Tugendhat put it, “British policy is being dictated by a mob.” This is very concerning indeed. Allowing the mob to dictate policy will only encourage mob violence in every other area.

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association also claims that the government is concerned about potential unrest within our own communities in the UK. This claim appears to be validated by Sir Simon supposing in the exchange above that “some other country can offer a more complete harbour than the UK.” It appears that he considers that the UK is not as safe as some other countries might be for someone like Asia Bibi and that this is a consideration in their discussions with other nations about her case.

So the situation is that Jihadi brides and ex-ISIS soldiers are welcomed back in the Britain, but no offer of asylum is made to Asia Bibi. This week, Laruen Southern released video evidence of NGOs teaching refugees how to lie about being Christians so that they can claim asylum. They are encouraging Muslims to claim that they have been threatened for being Christians and thus obtain asylum. Meanwhile, the most genuine, clear-cut case, is not receiving the help she needs.


Resignation

On Thursday, Rehman Chishti MP resigned as Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party and PM Trade Envoy to Pakistan over the draft EU withdrawal agreement and the lack of leadership show by the government regarding Asia Bibi. In his resignation letter he stated:

“What I found shocking is that the British Government is failing to put into practice the core values that our country stands for; religious freedom, justice, morally doing the right thing, and that when we see an injustice where an individual’s life is in clear danger and they have been persecuted for their faith, we do all that we can to help them. The Government should not wait to see if another country offers sanctuary, we should have had the conviction to lead on this matter and offer sanctuary ourselves straight away.”

He refers to a letter signed by some 124 MPs and Peers asking the Prime Minister to personally intervene to offer asylum to Asia Bibi. The Prime Minister was asked about Asia Bibi in Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday. Mrs May expressed her concerns for Asia Bibi’s safety, but stopped short of offering asylum.


Johnson letter to Home Secretary

Boris Johnson has written to the Home Secretary about Asia Bibi. In the letter he said:

“I am well aware, as a former foreign secretary, of the constant threat to our overseas missions but we cannot allow the threat of violence to deter us from doing the right thing.

“I do not think it is a dignified position for the UK, given our historic links with Pakistan and the extent of our influence there, to look to others to do what we are allegedly nervous to do ourselves.”


Moral cowardice

It is clear that the government is not prepared to stand up to pressure from Islamists, even when it has a clear moral duty to do so. British foreign policy, is subject to mob pressure. The government repeatedly states that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’. If that is true then why are they so concerned about giving asylum to Asia Bibi?

British policy should not be held to ransom by potential Islamic unrest either here or anywhere. Yet this is what is currently happening. Backing down to Islamic pressure only encourages Islamists.

We should pray that the government recovers the moral courage required to do the right thing, even when it costs. Otherwise it will not be long before government policy is dictated by Islamists.

 

Links:

British Pakistani Christians: UK Foreign Office fear of attack on consulate staff led Home Office to block asylum for Asia Bibi.
https://www.britishpakistanichristians.org/blog/foreign-office-admits-fear-of-attack-on-consulate-staff-resulted-in-block-to-asylum-for-asia-bibi

Foreign Affairs Committee discusses Asia Bibi. 
https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/f3f2a5b5-a453-4256-af1e-7d71f9d0ab1f?in=14:57:38&out=15:03:13

Daily Mail: Britain must help brave mother in fear of lynch mob': Ex Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson demands Sajid Javid ignore the danger of retaliatory attacks to offer refuge to Pakistani women freed after eight years in prison on blasphemy charge.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6382005/Britain-help-brave-mother-fear-lynch-mob.html

Melanie Phillips: The Shameful Abandonment of Asia Bibi.
http://www.melaniephillips.com/shameful-abandonment-asia-bibi/

Guardian: Foreign Office 'allowed Pakistan mob to dictate Asia Bibi asylum case'.
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/13/asia-bibi-foreign-office-accused-of-allowing-pakistan-mob-to-dictate-asia-bibi-asylum-case

Hansard: Prime Minister responds to question about Asia Bibi.
https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-11-14/debates/C03B9E77-08F3-4B28-A9A9-3229779FCCF9/Engagements#contribution-842028EB-DF7B-429A-BEA8-4A2F78F383B8

Rehman Chishti MP resignation letter.
https://twitter.com/Rehman_Chishti/status/1063083736164720640/photo/1

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