Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes to save Iraqi Christian from deportation
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has made a bid to keep an Iraqi Christian who fled Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) from being deported back to his home country.
Welby has written a letter to the Home Office in support of the refugee ahead of a fresh appeal to overturn the rejection of his asylum claim.
Two appeals have already been turned down and the Iraqi is now seeking permission for a third appeal. He was told earlier this month to report to a Home Office center every fortnight or risk being held in a detention center.
Welby met the asylum seeker, a Syriac Orthodox Christian who was deacon of his church in Mosul, while he was volunteering at Lambeth Palace.
In a letter dated September 28, Welby said he had “been impressed with [the man’s] positive attitude, integrity, and the quality of his work,” adding, “[he] is clearly someone who wishes to contribute to society… He is someone who would be a great asset to the United Kingdom. I strongly endorse [his] desire to seek asylum in the UK,” as cited in the Guardian.
The archbishop’s interfaith adviser, Mark Poulson, sent a second letter last week, in which he “unequivocally endorsed” an appeal of the rejection of the Iraqi Christian’s asylum request.
Poulson wrote, “we have been extremely impressed with his… willingness to spend time helping others whilst his own situation is so distressing.”
The refugee and his immediate family fled their Mosul home in August of 2014 after IS jihadis seized the city.
They were among more than 100,000 Christians and Yazidis who fled north to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.
The husband came to Britain on a student visa and applied for asylum when it expired in May of 2015.
Judge Clive Lane, who dismissed the second appeal in October, said the asylum seeker could return to his family in the city of Irbil, where he said they appear to “live in safety.”
The asylum seeker’s solicitor, Susan Liew, said it was “erroneous, perverse and irrational” to believe he could be relocated to Kurdistan, given that his family is still forced to live in a church basement where they have been for a year.
Speaking to RT last year, the Iraqi said it’s “impossible to go back to a place with nothing.”
“Our house is taken by ISIS. Everything taken by ISIS. Even our neighbors are now supporting ISIS. So how can I go to a place where they are all supporting ISIS? It’s like someone going back to die. That means if they want to send me back, they want to kill me.
“The situation there is unsafe and unstable. Even the Home Office admit that it is unstable inside Iraq and don’t advise anyone to travel to Iraq, but they want us to go back.”
Welby has repeatedly voiced concerns for Iraqi Christians since IS expelled the Christian communities in 2014, and has urged the government to offer them refuge.
However, he has also warned that offering asylum on a large scale could “drain” the Middle East of its Christians, and said that, except in “extreme circumstances,” he favored the creation of safe havens in the region.