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While judge deliberated over grievous breach in court protocol Christian pastor seeking asylum taken to airport for deportation


Deported Pakistani Christian pastor did not behave "evangelical" enough to warrant asylum in the UK despite death threats while conducting outreach - Pakistan deemed safe for terrified man to return to by the Home Office despite 99.8% rate of violence against Christians by persecution watchdog

The credibility of Pastor Samson was evaluated on the basis of inadequate information. Though he is an accomplished theology graduate who entered the UK to study at a theological college under a student visa granted by the Home Office, Asher was shockingly told that "the evidence did not show he has previously behaved in an evangelical way".

Application for Judicial Review REJECTED - While judge deliberated over grievous breach in court protocol Christian pastor seeking asylum taken to airport for deportation.

Lack of substantive interview was not deemed as a breach by the judge and he claims their was a full opportunity to submit evidence earlier this year.

Experts say the Home Office asked closed questions as to only elicit certain answers, and there were documented errors by legal counsel which impacted the good graces of the appeal judge. 

In an attempt to rescue Asher from his predicament Wilson Chowdhry and his daughter rushed to meet him at Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre on 7th January. They arrived at 8.30pm as Hannah was undergoing care at Royal Free Hospital for the entire day

Asher Samson, a Pakistani Christian pastor seeking asylum in the UK was granted bail from Morton Hall Detention Centre in Lincolnshire on 27th December due to a procedural matter following a late response to a query.

Unfortunately for Asher after the new year had begun, he was again taken into custody on 4th January and ordered to appear for a deportation hearing today (9th January) in order to repatriate him in Pakistan despite his high-risk profile and past experience of death threats and violence by extremists who he alleges are still, years later, making inquiries about his whereabouts.

British Pakistani Christian Association had connected the family with legal resources and an experienced immigration lawyer and were to begin a country expert report hoping to bolster a proposed judicial review of Asher Samson's asylum case.

Mr Samson asserted that he has not had a substantive asylum interview anytime between 2013 and 2017, which constitutes a procedural error and was challenged through a request for judicial review.

Unfortunately Judge Freeman - who deliberated as Mr Samson was carted off to the airport - acknowledged the new September 2018 standard of evaluation for Pakistan which indicates that it a dangerous place for Christians to live but did not endeavour to apply it to Mr Samson's case.

The credibility of Pastor Samson was evaluated on the basis of inadequate information. Though he is an accomplished  theology graduate who entered the UK to study at a theological college under a student visa granted by the Home Office, Asher was shockingly told that "the evidence did not show he has previously behaved in an evangelical way".

Judge Freedom ruled the previous judgement about Asher's credibility overrides both the current environment in Pakistan for Christians and any mistakes that were done through his previous solicitor - though no fault of his own.  You can read more about the odd decisions made by the Home Office (here)

Among the top 11 countries listed in Open Doors World Watch List 2018 that were rated as "extreme," Pakistan has the highest percentile in its profile for violence as being engaged in as a primary method of persecution against Christians: an undeniably dangerous 99.8%.

For at least the past three years 2016, 2017, and 2018 Pakistan has held first pace for the most violent persecution against Christians. Find the 2018 World Watch List (here).

This ostensible open season on Christians, is no coincidence as extremists are increasingly putting pressure on political parties to accommodate radical views.

Moreover, newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is Oxford educated, even made claims in a speech to an Islamic Conference against the historicity of Jesus Christ in a derision of Christianity, ignoring both independent Roman and Jewish historical sources verifying the biblical Jesus' existence.

Wilson Chowdhry said:

"It may seem strange that a leader of Prime Minister Khan's calibre and education could make these statements.

"However, given the deep-seated indoctrination of Pakistani population against religious minorities endorsed in the national educational curriculum, perhaps it is not surprising to hear such a comment to marginalise the Christian faith..."

PM Imran Khan was widely criticised for catering to Islamic extremists and allowing the Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) petition against Asia Bibi to proceed, contrary to the rule of law.

Attacks on Christians are pervasive in Pakistan including the 2013 Peshawar bombing, various mob attacks in Gojra, Gujranwala and St Joseph’s colony. To read mores accounts in our coverage of the commissioned Global Report on Christian Persecution (click here)

Despite the clear risks to persecuted Christians in Pakistan, Asher Samson was deported on a non-charter govt flight last night from Doncaster at 10:45pm.  Though the family were distraught about the whereabouts of Asher communication has been made and BPCA will be providing some temporary shelter in one of our safe houses.

We also observe that Mr Samson was without a lawyer since November 2018 and represented by his minister and brother-in-law at his removal hearing in December where they successfully argued that there had not yet been a response to previous submissions by the court and where he was granted bail.

Judge Chapman also considered the defense teams grounds for appeal questioning the prior judgment's treatment of and approach to both Mr Asher and his witnesses "unfair an unreasonable," and proclaimed the first-tier judge's ruling "sustainable".  

It does not seem fair and reasonable that Mr Samson has been returned to Pakistan where he is a vulnerable target without immediate family because of the outdated criteria of the Home Office and BPCA is asking the UK Home Office for a review.

The initial Judge complained that there had "not been given a consistent account...of having received threats" but the reality is that threats of violence are normative against religious minorities and to some degree expected when doing evangelism as practiced in Christianity especially in places like Pakistan where hostility to minority faiths is a firmly established fact.

The difference with Mr Samson is that he was particularly being sought out by extremists and apparently is still known to them. Which is why BPCA is providing a safe house.

Mr Samson does fundamentally fear a blasphemy allegation resulting from the fact he is being targeted and that he has become noticeable. These prelude to allegations, are more often than not, handled extra-judicially. The conditions for religiously motivated hate-allegations and violence are higher than normal and indeed they are normally high.

Whether they are registered as blasphemy allegations or not, personal offences are not forgotten. A long-standing grievance and sense of entitlement against Christians, means blasphemy allegations are precipitous, contrived and reattempted against those targeted.

Specific examples can be found in the case of Asia Bibi – who the mob came for a week later (click here); or Patras Masih - who was first targeted during a cricket match and later charged a month or so later when he took his phone in for repairs (click here).

Now the two Ayub brothers, Qaisar and Amoon, most recently sentenced to death, who fled the country twice only to return after years on the run - the impetus for the allegation against one of them was an alleged comment at work about a co-worker's female relative, with blasphemy-evidence spontaneously appearing on a website that was set up with accused personal information (click here).

Somehow in a draconian two-for-one agenda, the man's brother was also caught up in the vendetta. They are a testament to the danger that can come to returnees whose asylum fails.

By far the most incredulous statement regarding Mr. Samson's credibility, is the following:

"The evidence indicates that the Appellant has not previously behaved in an evangelical way."

However there was significant evidence to support the conclusion that Asher Samson is a practising evangelical Christian and that he had chosen to study theology.

Previously the Home Office has shown a propensity to evaluate applicants based on a western understanding of what they should know as to complex concepts in order to hold a particular belief.

The Home Office had previously engaged in a pressurised game of Biblical or philosophical trivia with asylum applicants to detect whether or not their belief system was valid.

This practice is now being admonished against in the training of assessors after BPCA raised concerns about professed Atheists being asked about Greek philosophy and Christians being drilled on obscure Bible passages. Read BBC article on Bible trivia scandal (here), read about new guidelines BPCA helped introduce to Home Office practice (here)

The same type of presumptive approach about what is deemed "an evangelical way" is and what it is not, seems to be present in how Mr Samson was evaluated.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review on the Global Persecution of Christians because as a high-level official in the government he has seen a clear need to conduct this review.

The Home Office should also take this need seriously and seek to benefit from updating their own data and not turn a blind eye to the need expressed by the Foreign Office.

The harsh reality for Mr Samson is that he did not have time to waste waiting for the review; however, it is an accepted fact that it is long overdue.

Whether it be a clerical error, or an administrative delay – these actions are risky business for a man who wanted nothing more than to be free to practice his faith and be with his family.

Asher was not in a position to return to his family members in Pakistan because he no longer has immediate family members there, therefore he has no means of being supported by family in the area upon return. BPCA is providing temporary measures but Asher will have a lonely struggle ahead of him.

His widowed mother no longer is living permanently in Pakistan, and even if she was located there, she could not provide for his needs in the event he is unable to find work. In fact, his experience and vocation could also present a risk for her as his relative. His immediate family members all live in the UK or New Zealand. 

Wilson Chowdhry said:

"The record shows that the home office has put up barriers for Asher Samson at every juncture of the immigration process.

"He was rejected without the decision makers properly evaluating the evidence.

"The Home Office employed a line of inquiry that limits rather than improves the opportunity for decision makers to get proper information.

"Mr Samson was handled carelessly by court officials and expected to quietly return to a country where he is at risk of violence.

Mr Chowdhry further said:

"Asher was a good candidate to enter the United Kingdom. He has family here; He seeks to better himself through education; He has a worldview that is easily compatible to British life and values; and a selfless desire to help others.

"His family had supported him the entire time he was in the UK so there was no strain on existing state resources, moreover he had already acculturated here with a full appreciation..

"Asher has returned to a country that does not value his life, a homeland now bereft of any family, and one where his freedoms will be limited and fear will be part and parcel of his life.

"The Home Office must reflect on a policy that is so neglectful that it approves Jihadi brides and ex-IS-soldiers but will not give entrance to a vulnerable Pakistani Christian due to erroneous risk assessment ."

British Pakistani Christian Association, continues to provide advocacy and humanitarian aid to Christians in Pakistan and the Pak-Christian diaspora. We cannot do it without your help please donate by clicking (here)

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